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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.
Meridian Specialty Yarn Group held a ground breaking ceremony on April 12. Their $8 million expansion will add 25 jobs at the Valdese facility, which currently employs 140. Read more from our partner at the News Herald…
Preparing an Industrial Site
Our January and February editorials focused on the recruitment process. As we discussed, it can be a huge boon to a County to land a large project but it isn’t as quick or easy as it seems. As a local economic development agency we have to focus on how to increase our odds for success.
As part of our current action plan, which can be viewed at www.burkedevinc.com/actionplan, a large priority under the Recruitment pillar is to work on the development of industrial sites. This includes identifying potential sites for future development; increase staff training on strategies around site development; look for partnerships to develop existing and new sites; and expand and enhance our broker network.
What goes into the identification and development of an industrial site? We often hear folks say, “We have a lot of land in Burke County,” but just because a large tract of land is available does not mean it will make a good industrial site.
There are three very important factors when determining whether a site is useful for industrial development. The first is infrastructure. Does the site currently have the water, power and gas needed to support industrial use? If it does not, could it affordably be brought to the site? Is there fiber and heavy electric infrastructure available and if not is it easily obtainable?
This is important to consider upfront because the cost of getting infrastructure to a site is very expensive and time consuming. Increasingly, companies are looking for sites that are “shovel ready”. They want to be able to build as soon as they close on a deal and do not want to wait six months to a year to have utilities ran to a site.
The second factor is topography. When dealing with a site that is 100+ acres and has to be graded, geology becomes very important. In our part of the state many large tracts of land either have huge amounts of rock or are in a flood plain. All of these factors have to be evaluated to ensure the property will allow for the construction of a large industrial building. Hitting rock at three feet can add huge costs to the creation of a shovel ready site and need to be vetted early in the process.
The third factor is accessibility to road infrastructure. This need can vary based on what user is looking at the site or how your community plans to market the site. For example, if you plan to market the site as a potential distribution center then clients will want the property located very close to a major interstate quality road.
Other factors – like cost and what surrounds the property – follow these top three variables. In general, what the site will be marketed as should be determined in the very beginning. For example, if a community wants to recruit a data center then proximity to a major interstate will not be as important; however, having infrastructure – including fiber – will be critical.
Some communities outline the type of industry they want to bring and prepare sites to meet those needs, like a data center. Other communities have available sites that are assets and then build a marketing plan around what that site is conducive to.
Burke County currently has three industrial sites that are viable and are actively being marketed. These sites are workable in the short term because they are either “shovel ready” or only need one or two improvements to become shovel ready.
These are the Cline Industrial park property located in Hildebran, which is shovel ready; the Stillwell site in Morganton, which needs to be graded; and the Burke Business Park on Kathy Road, which needs gas infrastructure. Some of these hurdles are easier to overcome than others; however, BDI is actively working to improve these sites and find a suitable use for them.
There are additional sites in the County that are what BDI considers to be more long-term opportunities. These are sites that need some significant improvements. They might have environmental issues or require millions of dollars of investment to be fully served with the appropriate infrastructure. We still market these sites to the state, site consultants and other partners but know that it might take many years and a lot of capital to make them viable.
It is also part of BDI’s role to continue to look for additional, new sites that meet some or all of these parameters. In doing so we look for sites that are at least 100 acres, which might mean bringing multiple parcels together, and are sites that already have all of these factors or could easily be developed to meet all of the criteria.
Like much of our work in economic development there are no easy answers or quick fixes. It is our job at BDI to continuously work to improve our industrial sites and actively market them. Perhaps the most important job is to maintain relationships with the key stakeholders and organizations that can help make all of that possible.
Business Recruitment Part 2 – The Close
Last month we discussed the recruitment process – “The Hunt” – and how it happens. Much of that process is out of our control. For example, if a company is looking for a community within 20 minutes of a major, international airport there isn’t much we can do.
Therefore, it is important for us to focus on the factors we can control. We have to make sure that we are as prepared as possible to be successful in the hunt.
We shared last month the first two phases of a project. During phase 1 a company or consultant eliminates communities. During the second phase they arrive at a short list of communities they are interested in and conduct visits.
Today we’ll talk about the third phase: The Close. Once a company expresses interest in coming to your community you’re given the opportunity to close the deal. This phase is often deeply impacted by what is happening with economic development at the state level.
Developers talk about our “tool box”. Some of our most powerful tools are incentives offered by the state. They come in different forms but are usually tax incentives or infrastructure improvements. The most commonly used in North Carolina are the One North Carolina Fund and the Job Development Investment Grant, which award grants to businesses based on job creation and investment commitment.
Local governments – the County and city/towns – can also provide incentives to a company. Sometimes a community provides land as an incentive. These are offered on a discretionary basis and are also evaluated based on the number of jobs to be created and the investment being made by the company. It is important that the incentives be tied to performance of specific actions by the company and that the deal is beneficial to both parties.
Sometimes other factors come into play and are considered as well – will the company be occupying an existing building that needs to be upgraded? Can we assist them with the up-fit? Does the company represent a new or emerging sector for the community? Does the company’s workforce requirements fit well with our existing workforce?
Communities, especially with strong relationships in place, can get creative to put together an attractive package for a company. In addition to traditional incentives they can leverage partnerships to close a deal. For example, they might work with the local community college to provide a company specific training program to match to specific job skills.
During this stage the ball is really in play and a local economic development agency has an opportunity to utilize all of its resources to attract the company. However, it is important to note that often communities never reach this point.
For some context, there are over 10,000 economic development agencies in the United States and, depending on the year, there are usually only 500-700 major economic development relocation projects in a year. So what can a community do to increase its odds and chances for success?
As detailed in our current Action Plan, which can be viewed at www.burkedevine.com/actionplan, BDI has regular contact with recruiters in the state and site consultants from across the country. We attend site consultant events where we form relationships with these individuals and share what our county has to offer.
We also maintain relationships with key partners, such as Duke Energy and Electricities, to make sure they know what sites and buildings we have available.
BDI utilizes marketing materials to highlight key sites and assets in the community. A good example of this is the recent video we produced called “Welcome to Burke County,” which can be found on our YouTube page.
Another example is the aerial video footage package we have created with a drone of the Burke Business Park. We include this footage when submitting RFIs to give the company a real life view of the site. We promote existing buildings and sites by using targeted mailings, e-blasts, social media and other avenues.
The other thing BDI does to increase our potential for success for recruitment is to constantly be working on infrastructure and site development. We work to ensure all necessary infrastructure is available at existing sites. We also look three to five years out to determine where the next industrial site could be in the County.
While landing a large project is a tremendous boon for a local economy it is rare. As we develop relationships with recruiters and work to increase our odds for success in the recruitment game we must also keep our eyes focused here within the County.
There is always work to be done to grow and develop our assets – such as our workforce. The more we improve these assets the more competitive we will be for our existing industry and new potential clients. We must constantly be striving to make Burke County a more attractive place for companies seeking a new production home.
For Immediate Release
Meridian Specialty Yarn Group to Expand Valdese Facility
Manufacturing Company to Invest $8 Million and Create up to 25 Jobs
BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (January 29, 2016) – Burke Development Inc., in partnership with the Town of Valdese and Burke County, announce an expansion of the Meridian Specialty Yarn Group, Inc. (MSYG) manufacturing facility in Valdese. This major announcement will result in the investment of $8 million by MSYG and the creation of up to 25 additional jobs over five years at the company’s Valdese textile plant.
Meridian Specialty Yarn Group, Inc., which has had manufacturing operations in Valdese since 1994, will expand operations at its current site beginning in early 2016. The company will complete site renovations and construct a new building on their existing property. Meridian manufactures and dyes yarn for various sectors including home furnishings and upholstery, hosiery, apparel, carpets and rugs, sewing thread, craft and industrial textiles.
“This is a significant announcement for the Town of Valdese,” said Valdese Mayor Chip Black. “We have worked with Meridian for many months to facilitate the process and find a solution that supports their tremendous growth opportunities while remaining here in Valdese.”
The project is supported by grants from the Town of Valdese and Burke County. These grants total $900,000 and will be spread over five years. The grants are performance-based and tied to an agreement by MSYG to continue purchasing water from the town at an equal or greater amount than the current amount, as well as the creation of at least 25 new jobs.
In addition, the North Carolina Department of Commerce has awarded the Town of Valdese two grants totaling $1,898,475 to upgrade the Town’s water and wastewater facilities. These grants were awarded with the condition that the company retains all current jobs in the Valdese facility.
Meridian Specialty Yarn Group is a subsidiary of Meridian Industries, a family-owned manufacturing group headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company operates two plants in North Carolina. The production facility in Valdese, located at 312 Columbo Street SW, specializes in package dyeing, space dyeing, top dyeing and yarn printing.
This expansion will provide increased dye house capacity allowing for greater flexibility and competitiveness in the marketplace. The company currently employs approximately 140 people.
“We are excited about the opportunity this new investment represents for us from a business perspective, and also for the town and for our employees,” said Tim Manson, President of Meridian Specialty Yarn Group. “When we developed the business plan for the expansion, we did a great deal of due diligence with regard to the location, and concluded the best place to be is where we are. We greatly appreciate the support of the city and county in helping us though this process.”
“It is important for us not only that we are creating new jobs but that we are saving the existing jobs,” said Burke County Board of Commissioners Chairman Wayne Abele. “We value our existing industry, the jobs they provide and the contributions they make to our community.”
The project has been supported by Burke Development, Inc., Burke County, the Town of Valdese, the Western Piedmont Council of Governments and the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
About Burke Development, Inc.
Burke Development, Inc. (BDI) is a nonprofit organization supported by private and public funding that is charged with accelerating economic growth in Burke County. BDI works with industry leaders, site selection consultants, government agencies and other entities to facilitate expansion strategies for existing businesses and recruit target industries to Burke County. For more information about BDI visit www.BurkeDevInc.com.
About Meridian Specialty Yarn Group, Inc.
Meridian Specialty Yarn Group, Inc. (MSYG) is the leading specialty yarn manufacturer in the United States. At the company’s wet processing plant in Valdese, NC, Meridian offers package dyed yarn, space dyed yarn, top dyed wool, yarn printing and twisting. At the novelty spinning operation in Ranlo, NC, Meridian produces coarse count novelty yarn from various substrates using six different yarn formation technologies. The end uses for these yarns include home furnishings, hosiery, industrial, craft and apparel. Meridian Specialty Yarn Group is a Meridian Industries, Inc. company. You can learn more at www.msyg.com.
Contact for Burke Development, Inc.:
Contact for Meridian Specialty Yarn Group, Inc.:
The BDI Board of Directors voted unanimously to pass a resolution supporting the Connect NC Bond. The Bond will invest $2 billion in targeted, long-term projects across the state including money for the UNC System, the NC Community College System, state parks, the National Guard and more.
To obtain more information about this exciting opportunity for the state of North Carolina visit www.connect.nc.gov.
The Carolina Textile District, a project launched by BDI and other local organizations, was featured in the Fall 2015 edition of the Economic Development Journal. The Journal is a publication of IEDC – the International Economic Development Council. See the article…
Business Recruitment Part 1 – The Hunt
Today’s editorial will be part one of a two part discussion on the fourth pillar of BDI’s current Action Plan – business recruitment. Business recruitment, sometimes referred to as “the hunt”, is by far the most recognized role that an economic development organization plays in a community.
Think about the headline on the front page of the paper. “Burke County Welcomes New Company and 300 Jobs”. The picture usually features local elected officials and representatives from Raleigh holding a shovel or cutting a ribbon.
While this is only one piece of what we do in economic development it is a very important piece because it brings new jobs and new investment into the County. However, few people understand how we arrive at the ribbon cutting moment. I’d like to explain how we get to that point. Often you have to go back two or three years to see where the project started.
Recruitment is a difficult and lengthy process. It is further complicated by the fact that much of the work that happens has to be confidential. If a business is looking at Burke County we give it a project name – this can create confusion and mistrust in a community sometimes because citizens think we are being secretive.
We give project names for a few reasons. Sometimes the company is relocating and hasn’t told their current workforce they’ll be closing that facility. We also want to prevent other states or counties from learning about a potential prospect. Many good projects have been lost in a community because another state caught wind of the deal and offered better incentives.
Projects and project leads are brought to BDI in many ways. The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina is the main engine for driving projects into our state. They have a team of Business Recruiters who work with companies from all across the country and the world who have an interest in locating in North Carolina.
We also have strong partnerships with companies like Duke Energy, Electricities and others that have their own recruitment teams and actively work projects throughout the state. Often projects come directly from Site Consultants. These individuals work throughout the world, are highly sought after and can be very valuable to have relationships with.
There are usually three phases to a project. The first is the elimination phase. These entities send RFIs (Requests for Information) out to economic development agencies that detail what the company is looking for. They start out by trying to eliminate you.
They narrow down whether they are looking for an existing building, a site or would consider both. From there the criteria are endless. They might want to be less than five minutes from a major interstate or 25 minutes from a major airport. The building might need 30 foot ceilings or 16 inch concrete floors.
Often, companies are evaluating hundreds of criteria but each project has hot button topics. You try to figure these out early on and play up your community’s strengths while playing down any weaknesses.
Once we have reviewed all criteria and determined that we have a fit we can submit a Burke County building or site. In a typical RFI we might also have to submit information about the community, the quality of life, the workforce, tax rates, available infrastructure, incentives and schools. The EDP of NC, or whoever is leading the project, will narrow the list down and present it to the companies.
This leads to phase 2, during which the companies make a short list of buildings or sites they are interested in. Typically during this phase a company is looking at anywhere from 3-6 communities. Sometimes this will lead to a visit from the company or the consultant.
This is when the community can help play a role in economic development. Sometimes when companies visit they want to meet with our office but they also ask to meet with other organizations. For example, local governments, the community college, the school system or other existing manufacturing companies.
All citizens can play a role during this phase as well. It is very common for site consultants to visit a community without even telling the economic development office. They will eat at a local restaurant or visit local stores to ask citizens firsthand about the community.
In next month’s editorial we will explain phase 3, which occurs once a company expresses interest in your community and you’re given an opportunity to close the deal. We will also share the detailed actions that BDI takes to facilitate the recruitment process because – although it is a difficult one – there are many ways a community can increase their chances for success.