Economic Development in Burke: A 12-month Plan

Retention and Expansion

Recently the BDI Board of Directors approved our 2015-2016 Action Plan. For anyone wanting more information, you can view the complete Action Plan here.

In today’s editorial I want to discuss one of our four areas of emphasis outlined in the Action Plan – business retention and expansion. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of having a strong existing industry program. For most counties – especially rural ones – 80 to 90 percent of job growth comes from existing industry and businesses that are started by local citizens, with the remainder coming from outside sources.

What does it mean to have an existing industry program? The foundation is a good relationship with the manufacturing companies that are in the County. We do this in various ways. We visit with companies regularly. Our goal each year is to make approximately 50 industry visits. Sometimes we meet with the CEO or President. Other visits we meet with a Plant Manager or Human Resources representative. This is an opportunity for the company to share current and future plans with us to see if there are ways we can help them grow.

Large corporations will often plan an expansion several years in advance so it is important for local company officials to know who to call if there is a discussion of an expansion at their facility. It is also important to know this information early in the process because it is a critical requirement if the company is seeking grant assistance. Many state grants require that no work be done toward an expansion before the grant is approved.

There are a few different types of grant assistance. The Building Reuse program from the NC Department of Commerce offers matching funds for businesses that are creating jobs and making additions or renovations to their existing facility.

The Economic Infrastructure Program provides grants to local governments to assist with infrastructure projects that will lead to new, full-time jobs. This can include installation, repairs or upgrades of public water or sewer lines, publicly owned natural gas, public broadband, publicly owned access roads or public rail spur improvements.

JDIG (Job Development Investment Grants), which was recently re-funded by the NC Legislature, is a discretionary incentive that provides annual grants to a new or expanding business. The state has a very rigorous set of criteria for a JDIG grant.

It is obvious that helping existing industry grow is a major part of our plan of work but let’s not ignore the retention piece. Having a company downsize or close is a blow to any community and is especially traumatic for the employees that lose their job. Having a robust retention/expansion program does not guarantee that this will not happen but it should provide some advanced warning and possibly provide an opportunity to mitigate the damage by addressing any local issues that are negatively impacting the employer.

Another important piece of our existing industry program is special events. To provide an opportunity for our local employers to meet in a relaxed atmosphere, on October 27 BDI will host a B2B Manufacturing event. This is an opportunity for local companies to network with each other, potentially find new suppliers and share their story. We have extended an invitation to utility providers, financial institutions and other organizations that can provide support and services to our local manufacturers. We would like to thank Duke Energy, Wells Fargo and Ekornes for their generous support of this event.

Next month we will further discuss a second body of work for BDI, Industry Recruitment, which is an often misunderstood process. We hope these editorials are lifting the curtain so Burke County citizens can gain a better understanding of how economic development is done and the role that BDI plays in creating wealth in our community. If you ever have any questions, please give us a call or stop in for a visit!

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