EDC focus now on retaining existing industry

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
As you might imagine, these aren’t the easiest of times to recruit new industry.
Recognizing that, the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission is looking inward, discussing how it can help the industries and businesses already in Rowan County.
“We are focused on bringing real value to our existing industry and finding ways to help them compete and/or reduce costs,” says Robert Van Geons, executive director of the commission.
At its recent retreat, the EDC board started planning for several events:
– Government Procurement Event: Van Geons says this would bring together multiple resources to assist Rowan’s existing industries in securing federal contracts to provide goods and services to those who have federal contracts.
The event would include information on how to utilize the Small Business Administration, military procurement and other programs.
“We are optimistic we can find ways to work with the Chamber of Commerce, Rowan Business Alliance and especially Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to facilitate this important event,” Van Geons says.
He has set up a planning meeting for the coming week, and the EDC’s goal is to set a date in March.
“As the stimulus bill evolves and is implemented, we need to make sure that every Rowan County business has opportunity to contract or subcontract for that and/or other work,” Van Geons says.
– Community Development Resource Event ó The EDC envisions this event as providing assistance to its municipal and county funding partners. It would put together an array of potential project funding sources.
Van Geons says it could include federal appropriations staff, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state grant agencies and potential foundation partners such as Goldenleaf.
“We have vetted this concept with local mayors, and they seem to believe it is a good idea,” Van Geons says.
The EDC will be partners with the Chamber of Commerce and are tentatively shooting for a date in late March.
– Entrepreneurial/Micro-Enterprise Event ó Livingstone College has offered to be a lead partner in a program focusing on smaller, emerging businesses.
Van Geons hopes that the Chamber of Commerce and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College could be partners, too. This event is tentatively scheduled for sometime in April.
In addition, the EDC board has talked about forming “Business Retention Teams” in which they would join with EDC staff to schedule and make visits to local industries.
“EDC members have volunteered, and we are scheduling meetings around the county,” Van Geons says.
“Again, we want to do everything that we can to keep every job possible. Our goal is to help our existing industry base find opportunity for their existing products, find new ways to utilize available capacity and find new ways for dislocated workers and the under-employed to support their families.”
The EDC board also wants Rowan County government and municipalities to take advantage of every opportunity for “non-traditional funding to support public projects and offset reliance on the local tax base whenever possible.”