Reimagining BroughtonBurke County has a tremendous opportunity for growth with the redevelopment of the historic Broughton campus. Local leaders and elected officials have spent several years laying the groundwork for a successful reuse of the campus.

The Development Finance Institute, based within the UNC School of Government, has been instrumental during these early planning stages. Visit their site to read more about the project and see their recently released report, which [Re]imagines the Broughton Campus.

For Immediate Release

 Two Burke County Manufacturers to Grow

$650,000 in Building Reuse Grants Announced for County

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (June 24, 2016) – The Governor’s Office and the North Carolina Department of Commerce have announced the award of Building Reuse grants to support the growth of two Burke County manufacturers. PEDS Legwear received a $500,000 grant to support the expansion of its facility in Hildebran and will add 50 news jobs. Fonta Flora Brewery received a $150,000 grant to aid in the company’s renovations of the Whippoorwill Dairy Farm where they will create 12 new jobs.

PEDS Legwear is located in Hildebran and currently has 184 full-time employees in North Carolina. The company manufactures and distributes socks under the Peds, Medi-Peds and Growing Socks brands. Major customers include Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, K-Mart, TJ Maxx, Payless, Amazon.com and Zulily.com.  The Canadian-based company has seen tremendous growth since opening its doors in Burke County in 2015.

“The Town of Hildebran is excited to see PEDS continue to grow,” said Town of Hildebran Mayor Jennie Cook. “We are glad to support the project and see the company add more jobs.”

PEDS will utilize grant funds to renovate a building on their campus in Hildebran. Upfits include roof repair, HVAC replacement, electrical upgrades and office renovations. Increased use of the building will support their need for additional manufacturing capabilities. The five percent local match was provided by the Town of Hildebran and Burke County.

Fonta Flora Brewery is a locally owned business that has garnered national attention since opening only two and a half years ago. The Whippoorwill Dairy will allow them to increase production while maintaining their current location in downtown Morganton.

The Dairy Farm, which is located adjacent to the North Carolina State Park at Lake James, has buildings that date back to the 1940s. Grant funds are for various renovations including HVAC, plumbing, electrical, flooring, doors and finish hardware. The facility will be used for brewing, storing of brewing equipment and materials, and barrel aging. The five percent local match was provided by Burke County.

“We are very happy to see Fonta Flora expanding,” said Wayne Abele, Chairman of the Burke County Board of Commissioners. “This builds on everything happening in the county right now for travel and tourism with the growth of Lake James State Park and the Burke County Fonta Flora Trail. It is a great project.”

Burke Development, Inc. and the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) assisted with the grants. For the full announcement from the Governor’s office visit http://governor.nc.gov/press-release/governor-mccrory-announces-more-104-million-infrastructure-funding-supporting-622-new.

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.

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Contact:

Alan Wood

828.764.1818

This month we want to discuss one aspect of economic development strategy that has become increasingly relevant in recent years – finding enough qualified workers to fill the jobs that are available in today’s economy. Specifically, we want to discuss the skills gap. You might have heard this phrase, “the skills gap”, but what does it mean and why are so many people talking about it?

When speaking with some of Burke County’s largest employers you will hear them say, “We can’t find the right employees,” although we all know someone who is out of work and searching for a job. We are not alone. Communities and employers all across the country are experiencing this problem.

A 2014 CareerBuilder report found that, “more than half of employers nationwide have an open job for which they cannot find qualified candidates, and 8 in 10 have difficulty filling positions altogether.”

Generally, the skills gap refers to a complex issue that is defined by employers having difficulty hiring skilled workers – specifically, workers with the right skills to deal with new technologies.

The problem is complex and can’t simply be blamed only on the belief that jobseekers aren’t “educated” in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, forty-four percent of college-educated workers under 25 have jobs that do not require a college degree.

There are varying opinions on what has caused and continues to contribute to the skills gap. Experts attribute the issue to various factors including:

  • Education gaps in particular areas
  • Gaps in on-the-job training
  • New/shifting technologies
  • Gaps in expectations about wages
  • Lack of knowledge about potential career opportunities
  • Access to education
  • Job requirements that are too specific

While this is a national problem it is widely recognized that solutions must come from the ground up and be created locally. In our December editorial we described BDI’s formation of a Workforce Task Force to delve into this issue and determine the best locally crafted response.

The Task Force includes key partners like Western Piedmont Community College, Burke County Public Schools, the Burke County Chamber of Commerce and our existing employers. These groups are in agreement that what is needed is an internal marketing campaign that targets students, young adults and their parents.

The campaign will utilize various channels to:

  • Describe the existing and future careers available in Burke County
  • Detail the career pathways someone should take to obtain a job in these fields
  • Encourage participation in the existing training programs that are already available
  • Promote opportunities within local companies – such as internships, apprenticeships, on-the-job training and tuition reimbursement – that provide hands-on experience

The campaign will focus on several emerging trends. It is vital that young people become lifelong learners. By 2018 nearly two-thirds of the nation’s jobs will require some postsecondary education or training. The average millennial stays in a job for only 4.4 years so it is critical that they are continuously obtaining new skills and adding to their resume to make themselves more marketable.

Employers must invest in training and providing skills to both new and existing employees. According to the CareerBuilder survey, seventy-two percent of job seekers are willing to take jobs in a different field from the one in which they are currently looking. If they are willing to provide training, then employers can cast a wider net when searching for the best talent.

Schools, colleges and community partners working on this issue must do a better job of understanding the jobs available five or ten years from now and communicating those opportunities to our young people and their parents.

BDI has set aside funds from our 2016-2017 budget to launch this campaign and will be selecting a marketing firm in June to carry out the first phase of the work. While this will not immediately solve the larger issue of the skills gap it is a step in the right direction.

For numerous reasons – including many that are outside our control – rural communities like ours continue to see declining population numbers, especially amongst the 18- to 25-year-old demographic. For many years we have focused on sending our young people away rather than preparing them for the jobs that will be available to them in their own towns.

The issue of the skills gap is not something that will be solved overnight, or even in a year’s time. At the local level we must continue to work together to develop long term solutions that fill the jobs of today – and more importantly, the jobs of tomorrow.

For Immediate Release

Burke County Job Fair Set for June 21

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (May 25, 2015) – The Foothills Recruitment Event is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Conference Center at the Foothills Higher Education Center.

The job fair, which typically draws over 50 local and regional employers, will feature opportunities in almost every field from manufacturing and healthcare to retail and construction. The event is free and open to the public. Jobseekers are encouraged to arrive early and to have resumes on hand.

The job fair is sponsored by Leviton, McDonalds, Case Farms, and Accuforce. Community partners and organizations supporting the event include NCWorks, Burke Development, Inc., Vocational Rehabilitations Services, Western Piedmont Community College, the Western Piedmont Workforce Development Board and Burke County Public Schools.

The Foothills Higher Education Center is located in Morganton at 2128 South Sterling Street across from Fatz Café. The event will be held rain or shine. For the latest updates on the event and attending employers, visit Facebook and search “Burke Foothills Recruitment Event” or call 828-438-6161.

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Contact:

Stephanie Hoover

828-438-6161

Terramar Sports, Trimfit Global Inc. and B.L. Intimates to Open Distribution Center

For Immediate Release

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (May 6, 2016) – Terramar Sports and two related companies – Trimfit Global Inc. and B.L. Intimates – will locate a distribution center in Hildebran, North Carolina, in May 2016. This is Terramar’s first entrance into the North Carolina area. Trimfit and B.L. Intimates have distributed out of Burke County for several years.

The companies operate in different segments of the undergarment business, focusing on base layer products, socks, underwear, bras, tights, leggings and intimates. All companies sell both branded and private label products to prominent national retailers, local shops across the United States and Canada, as well as through many digital channels.

The new operation will be housed in the former Adden Furniture building located at 1st Street NW in Hildebran. Originally built in the 1960’s the 206,000 square foot structure will be retrofitted to serve the companies’ needs. Initial shipments will begin in mid-May and utilize 89,000 square feet. The remaining space will be brought into use over the summer with full operations beginning in August.

Ben Lieberman, President of Terramar Sports, stated, “Our goal is to consolidate multiple warehouses into one location to better serve our customers. The Hickory area is a perfect spot to do exactly that. The excellent workforce, available real estate options and strategic geographic position are just what we needed.”

Alan Wood, President and CEO of Burke Development, Inc., added, “We are pleased to have an organization like Terramar Sports move to the area and join Trimfit and B.L. intimates. As leaders in their industry they continue to grow and that bodes well for Burke County.”

Terramar Sports will accept applications for employment immediately. Please send resumes by email to  Warehouse@terramarsports.com with the subject line “NC Employment”.

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Contact:

Alan Wood

828.764.9372

Save the Date! 
 
 
BDI B2B Manufacturing Event
October 4, 2016
5:00-8:00pm
The staff and Board of Directors of Burke Development Inc. (BDI), along with our event sponsors, announce the date for our 2nd annual B2B Event. Networking, local beverages and entertainment are provided free of charge.
Local manufacturers and manufacturing suppliers are invited to set up a booth and share information about their company. To reserve a booth contact us at 828-764-9370 or email hope@burkedevinc.com.

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.

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.