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!

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (September 29, 2015) – Burke Development, Inc. will host a Business to Business Networking event on Tuesday, October 27. Designed for local manufacturers, the event will provide companies an opportunity to grow their business with local firms or find local providers of goods or services.

Held at the Conference Center at the Foothills Higher Education Center, the program will begin at 5:30pm and end at 8:00pm. The event will feature local food and beverages provided by local breweries and wineries; as well as live music. It is sponsored by Duke Energy and Wells Fargo.

“This will be a fun night for our local companies to meet with each other and share their story,” said BDI President Alan Wood. “It is very important that we partner with our existing industry to help them grow and this is one way in which we can help them do that.”

In addition to local manufacturing companies, any suppliers to these companies including utility organizations and financial institutions are also invited to attend. Participants will have the option of setting up a booth to display what they do. The event is free for all attendees.

The B2B Manufacturing event is part of Burke Development’s Existing Industry program, which is conducted to foster strong relationships between BDI, local manufacturers and other support organizations within the County.

For more information or to register, please contact Hope Hopkins at 828-764-9370 or email hope@burkedevinc.com.

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

August 2015

Economic Development in Burke: A 12-month Plan

 

Last month I shared information about how economic development is defined and how economic development activities differ by community. This month I would like to share some of the specific activities that Burke Development will carry out over the next 12 months.

In June we held a strategic planning session with our Board of Directors to discuss economic development efforts, identify key priorities and outline goals that should be accomplished in the coming year.

In evaluating our strengths, many themes emerged including our location with direct access to Interstate 40; our low cost of water, sewer and power; as well as strong partnerships between local governments, Western Piedmont Community College, Burke County Public Schools and private sector partners.

Major issues and opportunities that emerged included the opportunities with state properties, a need to address population loss in regards to workforce development, growth of manufacturing assets and a lack of sites and buildings.

Following these discussions BDI staff composed our 2015-2016 Plan of Work, which details four main priority areas: Existing Industry, Industry Recruitment, Small Business/Entrepreneurship/Industry Clusters, and Workforce Development.BDI 2015-2016 Action Plan Visual

It is very important to have a strong existing industry program because 80 to 90 percent of all growth in rural communities comes from existing industry and homegrown businesses. The program calls for regular visits with manufacturing companies – including a few visits per year to headquarter facilities. We will assist with expansions through grants, training and assistance with new construction, when needed. We will also hold special events for manufacturers and serve as a liaison with local and state partners.

The next body of work is industry recruitment, which outlines strategies that will attract new companies to our County. This is the most highly publicized role of a local economic developer but in many ways the hardest. Annually, there are approximately 500 major economic development projects in the U.S. so competition is tough.

We plan to increase our opportunities by creating and maintaining strong relationships with the Economic Development Partnership of NC, site consultants, brokers and the NC Department of Commerce. We will also develop new marketing materials to leverage our key sites, target industry sectors and create a task force to work on infrastructure and site development. Our recruitment efforts will be focused on select industry clusters that we feel can be supported by our workforce and infrastructure.

Another important key to economic development, especially in rural areas, is entrepreneurship and supporting high-growth, scalable companies. Burke Development plans to do this by acting as the lead organization for BEBO (Burke Entrepreneurs and Business Owners), providing resources to scalable companies, and further developing competitive advantages for small- to mid-size companies – like the Carolina Textile District.

Workforce development has become a larger piece of the economic development conversation in recent years as the manufacturing skills gap has emerged and become a concern for all communities across the country.

In addition to maintaining relationships with workforce development partners and expanding existing training opportunities, Burke Development will develop a task force that evaluates ways to maximize our workforce and skilled workers for future growth. This will lead to a five-year, internal marketing plan that will address the long term needs of workforce development in Burke County and will involve partners from private industry, local governments, K-12 Schools and WPCC.

As we explained in last month’s editorial, the work of a local economic developer can be vast and can vary over time. We look forward to implementing these strategies and then evaluating our progress after a year to see how we can improve. Ultimately, we believe these activities will support and promote the development of jobs, investment and wealth within our community – which is our stated goal.

For Immediate Release

Spartacraft Receives Building Reuse Grant to Aid in Expansion

Wood Products Company to Add a Minimum of 20 Jobs

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (August 21, 2015) – Spartacraft Custom WoodWorks has received a $200,000 Building Reuse grant from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority. The company, which conducts finishing work on furniture and doors, as well as other furniture manufacturing endeavors, will add a minimum of 20 jobs as a result of the project. This is the fourth grant of this type received by a Burke County industry this year.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity,” said Spartacraft President Don Clark. “Our customers appreciate what we do and they are really pushing us to grow more. Their demands for quality and service are so high that we need the technology and infrastructure in our facility to deliver and meet their needs.”

The grant will support Spartacraft in various additions to their facility, which is located in Connelly Springs. Original construction of buildings on the property dates back to 1932. The grant funds will be used to install a dust collection system and spray booths, new lighting and a new air conditioning system.

Spatacraft underwent an expansion in August 2012 as a result of an 85 percent increase in sales. The company added manufacturing space during that time and added 12 jobs. The company has completed the requirements associated with that project and, as evidenced by this project, is continuing to expand.

“We’re excited to see Spartacraft continue to grow,” said BDI President Alan Wood. “We’re pleased that this is the second opportunity we’ve had to help them expand at this location. We hope to be a partner with them for many years.”

The Building Reuse Program provides grants and loans to local governments to renovate vacant buildings, renovate and/or expand a building occupied by an existing North Carolina company, and/or renovate, expand or construct health care facilities that lead to the creation of new, full-time jobs.

“We are happy to see a local company growing,” said County Manager Bryan Steen. “These projects are important as they provide job opportunities for our local citizens and continue to increase our tax base.”

Burke County provided the required local match for the grant, which was announced August 21 by North Carolina Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla, III and Assistance Secretary for Rural Development Dr. Patricia Mitchell. The Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) and Burke Development, Inc. (BDI) assisted with the grant.

“I love Burke County and am so glad that we can add these jobs,” said Clark. “We appreciate the support from the County and everyone at BDI, especially Hope Hopkins, who really helped us out and put the package together quickly.”

 

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

 July 2015

 

What is economic development?

 

Economic development is often misunderstood – partially because it is defined differently depending on where you live. How economic development is done in a community depends on various factors.

Is the area rural or urban? Is the local economic development entity a function of the County or is it a public/private partnership? Is economic development funded through a direct appropriation or through municipal budgets?

In Burke County the economic development organization, Burke Development, Inc., is a public/private partnership funded by the County, municipalities and the Committee of 100. A staff of four, reporting to a Board of Directors, consisting of members of the funding agencies, is the agency responsible for these tasks.

When many people think of their local economic development office they think about ribbon cuttings on the front page of the paper for a new business locating to the area; however, there is a lot more to it than that. In Burke County, the stated goal of economic development is to support and promote the development of jobs, investment and wealth within the community. There is a focus on improving the quality of life for all residents through long term, sustainable strategies.

Promoting the development of jobs can occur through recruitment, which tends to receive the most attention, but more importantly, through support of existing industry, where 80 to 90% of job growth is fueled in rural communities. Ensuring resources are in place to develop healthy and scalable businesses is also a key to increasing wealth in a community.

The work of an economic developer does not exist in a bubble and changes vastly over time based on current needs and opportunities. For example, a large asset for Morganton and the rest of Burke County over the next few years is the Broughton property. There is a huge opportunity for local leaders to work with the state to redevelop the 1,200 acres into a project that drives economic growth – not just for the County but for the region.

Economic development itself has changed over the past two decades. More states are switching to a public/private model – as North Carolina did in 2014. States are also constantly evaluating incentive policies and Counties are as well. Traditionally, Counties provide incentives based on the number of jobs a company will create and their taxable investment.

At an increasing rate counties – especially rural ones – are evaluating incentives on a deeper level. They consider factors such as: Do these jobs match up with our citizens’ skill sets? What is the quality of the jobs being created? Will the company provide benefits? Is the company committed to the County for the long term? It is important to realize that incentives will not make an inferior site good, or make an unacceptable project suddenly shine; they should be used judiciously to enhance opportunities and to seal the deal with new and existing industries.

While economic development is very diverse it should always be a strategic process. Developers must partner with leaders of the community to enhance the economic activity of the area. Concentrated and well-planned activities can increase the economic health of the County and improve opportunities for all.

 

For Immediate Release

 Duralee Fabrics Limited Moving to Burke County

Company to Add Jobs at Morganton Facility

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (June 19, 2015) – Duralee Fabrics Limited and Duralee Fine Furniture, a manufacturer that has had a presence in Burke County since 2005, is expanding operations at its Morganton facility. The company committed to adding 41 new jobs for which they received a $410,000 Building Reuse Grant from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority. Company executives anticipate hiring significantly more workers over the next two years.

“We’re happy to be there and excited.” said Bill Fuchs, CFO for Duralee Fabrics and Duralee Fine Furniture. “We have a number of employees who are moving down to NC and we’re happy about that. We’re glad to be in a place where we are wanted and we hope to continue to be successful. The business is on the uptick. The furniture company is doing very well right now. We’re excited to be down there and hope to be there for a long, long time”

The Duralee Fine Furniture facility, located at 647 Hopewell Road, is 180,000 sq. ft. and was constructed in 1963. The grant funds will be used for upgrades to the building’s offices, roof, lighting and HVAC. Duralee Fine Furniture is one of the main divisions of Duralee Fabrics and the first to create its own furniture in-house.

“I’ve known the principals of Duralee for many years and was with them when they opened here 10 years ago,” said Morganton Mayor Mel Cohen. “I’m excited they would choose to move more of their operations into this community. It is truly a good move for them and for us.”

North Carolina Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla, III and Assistance Secretary for Rural Development Dr. Patricia Mitchell announced the grant on June 18. The Building Reuse Program provides grants and loans to local governments to renovate vacant buildings, renovate and/or expand a building occupied by an existing North Carolina company, and/or renovate, expand or construct health care facilities that lead to the creation of new, full-time jobs.

This grant round was extremely competitive as only six projects were selected for funding. The City of Morganton split the required local match with Burke County.  The Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) and Burke Development, Inc. (BDI) assisted with the grant.

“We’re very excited to see another manufacturer growing and expanding here in Burke County,” said Burke County Commissioner Chairman Johnnie Carswell. “On behalf of the County Commissioners we thank Duralee for their continued growth and for the jobs they provide our hard working citizens.”

“This was a competitive project with many partners involved with their support including the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Michelle Cammarata with Ryan, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Western Piedmont Council of Governments, the City of Morganton, Burke County and Burke Development,” said BDI President and CEO Alan Wood. “Having job growth from our existing industry is the linchpin of our economic development strategy. We welcome this growth and look forward to working with them in the future.”

The company plans to start hiring immediately and will seek new employees through NC Works. Those interested should visit www.ncworks.gov or visit the NC Works office located at 720 East Union Street in Morganton.

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

For Immediate Release

 New Furniture Jobs Coming to Burke County

American Hospitality Furnishings Awarded $212,500 Building Reuse Grant

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (May 21, 2015) – American Hospitality Furnishings will move forward with renovating and occupying the former Drexel Heritage Facility located at 410 Hogan Street after closing on the building and receiving a $212,500 Building Reuse Grant from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority. The company committed to 17 new, full-time jobs for the Building Reuse Grant.

The Building Reuse Program is operated by the N.C. Department of Commerce Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA). It provides grants and loans to local governments to renovate vacant buildings, renovate and/or expand a building occupied by an existing North Carolina company, and/or renovate, expand or construct health care facilities that lead to the creation of new, full-time jobs.

“We plan to start manufacturing for upper middle to high-end hotels with the anticipation of having substantial growth over the next two to five years,” said Nick Hart, Owner of American Hospitality Furnishings. “We have plenty of room to expand and hope to hire 100 people over the next two years.”

Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, American Hospitality Furnishings (AHF) is a manufacturer of custom furniture for hotel industry clients. A portion of the building was constructed in 1901 and additions were later added. It now totals 166,000 sq. ft. and has been vacant for nine months. AHF will utilize the grant funds to renovate sections of the building including the front entrance and office space.

Hart added, “This has been a vision of mine for many years to bring the hospitality furniture industry back – not to America – but to North Carolina. I have deep roots here and believe it is time to have this renaissance and bring this back to NC. It is the perfect place because there are people with incredible skills and a labor force that is committed and dedicated.”

North Carolina Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla, III and Assistance Secretary for Rural Development Dr. Patricia Mitchell announced the grant on April 23.

“This is a great thing for our workforce to get people back to working in that building,” said Morganton City Manager Sally Sandy. “This is a win for the community as well as the company.”

“It is always exciting to see an industry with a long standing heritage in Burke County returning to provide jobs for our citizens,” said Burke County Manager Bryan Steen.

The City of Morganton split the required local match with Burke County.  The Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) and Burke Development, Inc. (BDI) assisted with the grant. Duke Energy also supported the project.

“Everyone has been so nice and helpful – the City, County, BDI and the WPCOG,” added AHF Owner Nick Hart. “Without key people like Rob Dunn from Stump Corporation I don’t think this would have happened. They were with me at every turn and were instrumental in helping me over some of the hurdles.”

“It is exciting to see this building be put back to use,” said BDI President and CEO Alan Wood. “We are appreciative of the collaboration on this grant and the support received from the N.C. Department of Commerce. We look forward to American Hospitality Furnishings growing and being a part of our community.”

Representatives from AHF plan to attend the Burke County Job Fair on June 25 to meet with candidates for employment. Interested jobseekers can learn more information about the Job Fair by visiting the “Burke County Mission Transition” Facebook page.

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:

Sara Chester

828.674.3141

Students Attend Career Fair

Burke County Public Schools hosted its second annual career/job fair for high school students Thursday, May 7 at the RO Huffman Center in Drexel. Four hundred students from the four high schools and Hallyburton Academy were bused to the event for the opportunity to meet with potential future employers. The employers present represented a variety of jobs and careers as well as higher education institutes.

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School system career development coordinators organized the event, the goals of which included connecting students with local business and industry, broadening students’ knowledge of the types of jobs available in Burke County and giving students experience with networking with potential employers.

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent said, “This was a great learning opportunity for our high school students as they approach graduation and consider life after high school or — more immediately — look for a summer job. We appreciate these business leaders and career professionals for their willingness to take time out of their busy schedules to interact with our students. This helps our students gain experience with some of those “soft” skills needed in the workforce. Opportunities such as this career fair benefit the community as a whole as we work together to develop a better workforce.”

Those invited to attend the career/job fair were: Accuforce, Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge, CR Lane Furniture, Carter Bank and Trust, Catawba Valley Staffing, CCCTI Culinary Arts, Chick-fil-A, Continental, Convergys, Food Lion, Friday Staffing, Geiger International, Heritage Funeral Home, Home Owners Association/Story Construction, Ingles, J. Iverson Riddle Center, Leviton, U.S. Marines, Montreat College, NC Works Career Center, Physical Therapy, RIBN Program – LR University, Shenendoah Furniture, U.S. Army, Valdese Weavers, Vocational Rehab Services, Walmart Supercenter, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Wells Fargo and Western Piedmont Community College, as well as Burke County Public Schools human resources, maintenance, nursing, counseling and public relations departments.

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