For Immediate Release


Burke Development Receives Two Excellence in Economic Development Awards from the International Economic Development Council

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (October 14, 2015) – The International Economic Development Council has selected Burke Development, Inc. as a two-time Excellence in Economic Development award recipient. BDI was recognized at the IEDC Annual Conference on October 5 for its role in developing the Carolina Textile District.

The Carolina Textile District was formed in 2013 by BDI; Opportunity Threads, a Morganton cut and sew facility; and the Manufacturing Solutions Center, a research and development institute in Conover. The organization is a network of textile related companies that collaborate to meet the increasing demand for US textile production.

2015 IEDC Awards Ribbon gold - croppedBDI was selected as a Gold Award recipient in the Multi-Year Economic Development category and as a Silver Award recipient in the Regionalism and Cross-Border Collaboration (Population 25,000-200,000) category.

“From localized community projects, to large scale endeavors, economic development efforts have played a vital role in the global economy,” said JoAnn Crary, CEcD, Chair of the International Economic Development Council and President of Saginaw Future Inc. “As we address new and longstanding challenges, these efforts continue to take on even greater importance. The award serves as a salute to pacesetting organizations like Burke Development, Inc.  for leading the charge.”

Recipients of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards demonstrate to an experienced panel of judges that they are at the forefront of the economic development profession. They are recognized as the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. These awards honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

“We are honored to receive the IEDC awards, which are very prestigious,” said BDI President Alan Wood. “BDI and our partners at Opportunity Threads and the Manufacturing Solutions Center have put a lot of effort into this project and it is paying off.”

As a result of the Carolina Textile District, western North Carolina was selected in March 2015 by Textile Insight magazine as a “Top Ten Emerging Hub for Textile Production.”

Alan receiving silver award“The textile industry has long been a part of who we are in western North Carolina,” added Wood. “This project has allowed us to revitalize the industry at a time when there is great demand for US production of sewn textile goods.”

According to the 2014 A.T. Kearney Reshoring Index, apparel was the third largest reshoring industry in the manufacturing sector in 2014. The Textile District assists both start-ups and well established companies that want to bring their textile production back to North Carolina by connecting them to manufacturers that can produce their product.

Click here to see the IEDC press release and here to see the full list of winners.

About the International Economic Development Council

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 4,600 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base.  From public to private, rural to urban, and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience. Given the breadth of economic development work, our members are employed in a wide variety of settings including local, state, provincial and federal governments, public private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities and a variety of other institutions. When we succeed, our members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life in their regions.

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



Alan Wood


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

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



Alan Wood


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



Alan Wood


 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.