The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

April 4, 2014

EDC plots main focus


Thursday, April 3, 2014 — At a strategic development meeting Monday night, the Stanly County Economic Development Commission board told staff they would like to see a focus on bringing high-wage jobs into the county over the next few years.

Members said they still want to see every new business opportunity, low- or high-wage, explored thoroughly.

“Our net needs to be large enough to accomodate all of these players,” EDC board member Joe Kluttz said.

“We don’t want to go exclusively on a buffalo hunt, aim for one 2,500-pound buffalo and exclude small game.”

But everyone agreed with facilitator Jeanette Goldsmith, of Goldsmith Strategies. when she asked if they would like to see EDC staff spend more of their time focusing on businesses that bring in higher wage jobs.

“We’re not saying we don’t want to have jobs for everybody, we do,” EDC Board Chairman Lindsey Dunevant said.

“We’re saying that the things we want to go after and the standards we want to set need to be high so that we can have a workforce that’s making a liveable wage, or beyond a liveable wage. That impacts everything else.”

Over the past three or four months, roughly 75 percent of EDC staff time has been  spent talking and meeting with potential new businesses of every wage level, EDC Director Paul Stratos said.

“That’s higher than normal, though,” Stratos said.

Still, as Goldsmith pointed out, time is a limited resource for any EDC.

As more time is spent on talking one aspect of business development, less is spent on another, she said.

Due to the volume of business recruitment activities the EDC has done over the past few months, projects, such as strategic places for  new business parks/sites, have received less attention.

“That’s something we need to get back to,” Stratos said.

The EDC board agreed recruiting businesses could not be their only priority.

“Maybe we’re being rejected [by potential businesses] because we don’t have the right sites or right buildings,” EDC board member Surendrapal Mac  said.

In the end the board identified four other areas for the EDC to focus on: developing potential business parks/sites, targeting specific industries, supporting existing businesses and maintaining workforce-related educational opportinities,

Specific projects include developing a list of potential business sites for the EDC and elected officials to consider, moving forward with a business support program and identifying specific industries to target for recruitment.

“Transportation equipment, energy and aerospace are the [target industries] we’re piggy-backing on with from the Charlotte Regional Partnership,” Stratos said.

Due to the county’s ample natural resources, commisioners also suggested looking into agri-business and tourism as target industries.

”We just don’t want to double up,” County Commission Chairman Tony Dennis said.

With organizations such as the Stanly County Chamber of Commerce and Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation focusing on small business support and downtown/ Main Street development, those present agreed the EDC did not need to make those among their top priorites.

This doesn’t mean the EDC will not assist with small business affairs, Stratos said, it is just a way of sharing the burden.

“The cooperation’s the best I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Dennis said.

“We get more done and that feels good.”

The EDC plans to have a second strategic planning session through Goldsmith Strategies sometime within the next few months to develop all of these ideas further.

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