Economic Development in Burke: Leveraging Partnerships
Like many sectors, partnerships are critical to our daily work. This month we want to talk about our key partners at the state, regional and local level. We would like to explain how we work with these organizations to grow the economy and create wealth in Burke County. On our most basic level, we work with all of the governments and municipalities within our borders and we depend on their assistance and expertise as do our work. Without these partners, we would not be able to succeed.
Our two most important partners at the state level are the Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC). The Department of Commerce is the lead agency that handles all economic development efforts for the state. They are responsible for processing and handling the loan and grant programs that flow through the state. They contract with the EDPNC, which is a public-private organization, to carry out business recruitment and expansion efforts.
The EDPNC is like the marketing arm for the state. They work with site selection consultants and industry executives to manage projects and bring businesses into the state. The Department of Commerce brings financial resources to bear. They provide support to a community through grants, assistance with infrastructure and many other programs. They can be especially important for existing industry expansions.
On more of the regional level we have a great resource and are lucky to have many allies that assist us, including Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Electricities and many others. As an example, Duke Energy often handles economic development projects and sends them out to local EDCs to give us an opportunity to respond. Duke has developers on staff that work with offices like ours to facilitate expansions, bring leads and assist us in many other ways.
We get a large amount of support on the regional level from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments. There are a total of 16 regional councils in North Carolina. The WPCOG represents four counties – Burke, Catawba, Alexander and Caldwell. A lot of federal and state monies flow through the COG and they help our organization, and our local governments, in numerous ways. They provide assistance with grants, research and analysis, maps and planning, workforce development initiatives, infrastructure and so much more.
On a local level we work with many education and workforce development partners including Western Piedmont Community College, Burke County Public Schools, NC Works and Vocational Rehabilitation.
Our relationship with Burke County Public Schools is critical – especially as our community finds innovative solutions to the “skills gap” and creates ways to connect BCPS graduates to jobs in our County. Leaders of the school system have a deep understanding of all the local job opportunities available to our students and do a great job supporting those who want to stay here with the skills, training and knowledge that will serve them well in today’s competitive workplaces.
Perhaps our most important local partner is Western Piedmont Community College. Many of the curriculum programs and continuing education programs at WPCC are designed to fill the pipeline of future workers for our local companies. When we submit a project to the EDPNC or a site consultant they almost always ask about our community college and what programs are offered.
The college also does a great job with their customized training programs, which allow our local manufacturing facilities to provide vital skills to their employees. WPCC has made huge investments in recent years to support growing manufacturing sectors such as metalworking, machining and advanced manufacturing.
Another critical area that requires partnerships is promoting and supporting the local business community, which involves working with the Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Center, VEDIC (Valdese Economic Development Investment Corporation) and the TDA (Tourism Development Authority). These entities all offer different services and resources including technical assistance, loans, grants and marketing opportunities.
Whether we are helping a small, locally owned business scale from two employees to 20 or we are helping a large manufacturing plant with a 200 job expansion, partnerships are critical to everything we do. Economic Development is all about relationships and we are thankful at BDI to have many good ones with our local, regional and statewide partners.