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Cabarrus EDC says numbers prove it is working hard

By Joanie Morris
Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó Cabarrus business leaders discussed a lot of numbers Tuesday at the Cabarrus County Economic Development annual Stakeholders Summit.
They included unemployment rates, jobs and the number of key findings by the Cabarrus Regional Partnership.
Two numbers, though, seemed to draw the most attention: $226.7 million and 709.
The money represents the amount of new investment the Economic Development Commission says it brought into the area last year. The second number represents the new jobs created by that investment.
“Credit for this goes to the community,” said John Cox, president and CEO of the Cabarrus Regional Partnership, which encompasses the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Cabarrus County Economic Development Commission.
“It is amazing to see our economy doing very well … not withstanding what we as a region, we as a community, have been through,” Cox said.
In 2007, Cox said, the Economic Development Commission was key in bringing these businesses to the county, as well as others:
– Great Wolf Lodge ó a $140 million investment which should generate $1.3 million annually in hotel tax revenue and create 400 new jobs on Bruton Smith Boulevard in Concord.
– PreGel USA ó A $15 million investment which should create 45 jobs for the company headquarters and International Business Park in Concord.
– Corning reopening ó Approximately 50 jobs in Midland.
– Overhead Door ó A $4.35 million investment which should create 120 full-time employees and 100 part-time employees in Harrisburg.
– Dragway @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway ó 2 full time and countless seasonal jobs and $60 million in investments.
– MRN Radio ó Relocation to Concord from Daytona with $1.8 million in investment and 35 employees.
– Mainline Supply Company ó Currently moving into “flex” space at the Concord Airport Business Park, will bring 55 full time jobs and more than $5 million in new investment.
“Some people think we are only in it for the big businesses, but we are not,” Cox said. “We want to build a quality workforce.”
He pointed to examples like MRN and PreGel, as well as the retention of existing businesses ó big and small.
Clay Andrews, a recruiter for the Cabarrus Economic Development Commission, said as far as his agency knows, Philip Morris USA, which announced last year that it would close the Concord plant, has not started shedding jobs and the only other large layoff took place this year, in March, when CT Communications laid off a little more than 600 people after Windstream bought the company.
The CT Communications layoff was not included in the 2007 report because the layoff didn’t actually happen until 2008.
Those jobs are already in the process of being replaced as well, Andrews added. ACN, a telecommunications firm that bought the former CTC building in Concord, is already upfitting the building for a move to the area later this year. Andrews said about the same number of jobs that were lost will be replaced by ACN ó which will also be accounted for in the 2008 report next year.
Other big changes in the region included the acquisition of NorthEast Medical Center by Carolinas Medical, changing the center to CMC-NorthEast. Andrews said that actually helped the county, because CMC-NorthEast has added jobs to offset any they lost during the acquisition.
And in 2006, Connextions, a telecommunications company, moved to Cabarrus County, bringing 600 jobs. Those were recorded during last year’s Stakeholders Summit. However, in 2007, the company added about 200 new jobs.
In addition to speaking about job creation and community investments, Cox also touched briefly on the Cabarrus Regional Chamber and Economic Development Commission strategic planning process, which started in October 2007 and ended with the adoption of a strategic plan at the January 2008 board meeting.
Key findings of the plan include:
– Improving K-12 education and preparing the workforce for new job opportunities.
– Creating an entrepreneurial culture and the services to support new firms.
– Preparing for growth and improving quality of life in terms of infrastructure, such as roads, amenities and government services.
– Embracing the diversity of new residents who will come to the community to work.
“They are coming here whether we are ready for them or not,” Cox said of the new workers.
Cox dwelled on the continuing growth of the local motorsports business. With Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, as well as the new Dragway @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway and the Windshear Wind Tunnel being built by Haas CNC Racing, Cabarrus County has become a racing team destination, he said.
“It’s ours to lose,” Cox said of the motorsports industry. Other communities across the nation are offering incentives and packages to race teams to move to their area. Cox said Cabarrus County and the entire region must remain competitive to keep those businesses.
He feels that work at the Economic Development Commission and other local agencies across the county prove the area remains “effectively competitive for the long haul.”
“We hope the return on your investment has been worth it,” he said in closing.
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@salisburypost.com.

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