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EDC folks seek to do more with less

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — Working with almost $41,000 less in revenue from government, RowanWorks Economic Development’s plans for the coming months include supporting companies that are already here and trying to attract new ones.
“We’re trying to identify the efforts that bring the greatest return on investment to our community,” executive director Robert Van Geons said.
With newly elected chairman James Taylor at the helm, the EDC board of directors held a planning retreat Wednesday. Taylor has served on the EDC board for five years and is a vice president with Carolina Farm Credit in Statesville. Paul Brown of W.A. Brown & Sons is the new vice chairman.
The board adopted a budget showing $389,699 in revenue from Rowan County and 10 cities and towns, down from $430,860 the year before. The EDC asked for 10 percent less from elected officials because their budgets were so tight, Van Geons said.
The EDC will partially make up for the loss with $92,160 from the unreserved fund balance, up from $57,266 last year.
RowanWorks also has budgeted $25,000 in revenue from private sources, such as grants, Van Geons said.
The EDC’s total budget this year is $506,859, up from $488,126.
No one got a raise this year, Van Geons said, and the agency will contract administrative work and use technology to be more efficient, including a new automated phone system.
Using the success of existing industries as a cornerstone, RowanWorks plans two new initiatives, budgeted at $10,000 each:
• The technology marketing initiative is aimed at luring a high-tech company that requires the amplified power now available at the Summit Corporate Center, such as a data center or multimedia design company, Van Geons said.
• The regional awareness event will bring in real estate brokers and site-selection consultants from throughout the region to tour Rowan County’s available industrial buildings and sites.
Also this year, the EDC will work to complete certification of three more sites by the N.C. Department of Commerce as shovel-ready: the Rowan County Airport, the 360-acre Platinum site between Webb and Peeler roads and the 90-acre Trevey site off Long Ferry Road.
This designation helped Rowan win the Toyota Racing Development project several years ago, and some companies will only consider certified sites, Van Geons said. The label means they’ve cleared environmental regulatory hurdles, are properly zoned and ready for development immediately.
“It eliminates a majority of risk for the company and cuts their timeline down significantly,” Van Geons said. “When you’re competing against a large number of sites, you fare much better in selection.”
Summit Corporate Center is also certified.
The EDC is saving money by having three sites certified simultaneously, which will cost about $20,000 overall, he said.
Existing industry support this year will include working with at least five companies to increase awareness in the marketplace and hosting four Connect Local events.
Van Geons said he wants to host an event exclusively for manufacturers that would feature information on financing, workforce training, incentives, how to use social media and more.
The marketing plan for the coming year at the EDC will expand “Road Show” resources, integrate social media, increase the use of video tours and more.
EDC board members will continue to reach out to elected officials throughout Rowan County, as well as legislators.
“We want more direct engagement with our federal and state representatives regarding issues facing our existing industries,” Van Geons said.
Board member Dr. Carol Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, encouraged RowanWorks to leverage the college’s training capabilities more often.
“The key to people wanting to locate here is education,” she said.
Pete Teague and Bill Greene encouraged the EDC to reach out to local companies and elected officials with emails keeping them updated on RowanWorks activities.
Bruce Jones said he keeps hearing business leaders say they can’t find people to hire. Several board members agreed, and Van Geons said the lack of job applicants in some cases is a mystery.
“So many people are underemployed,” he said. “We have tens of thousands of experienced workers looking for jobs, and I have heard people say they have a sign out and they can’t fill it.”
Companies that can’t find workers with the skills they need should know RCCC will customize a training program, Spalding said.
“Our capability is not just basic skills,” she said. “It’s much higher.”
Grants are often available to pay for the training.
Some companies are finding the employees they need, Van Geons said. Boral Composites recently used the EDC office to interview job candidates and hired nine of 10, he said.

EDC?activity

Since January 2010
 
107 projects added
124 projects worked
59 visits from companies
 
Since January 2011
 
42 projects added  
13 visits from companies
 
As of today  

81 active projects

Source: RowanWorks Economic Development

High-tech     firm hiring

Turnkey Technologies is hiring. The high-tech firm on Bringle Ferry Road has hired one employee and needs another by Aug. 1. The company will hire about five more people in the coming months, President Tony Ward said.
Positions include experienced design/project engineers and a shop supervisor. RowanWorks is accepting resumes on behalf of the company emailed to info@rowanworks.com, faxed to 704-637-0173 or mailed to 204 E. Innes Street, Salisbury, NC 28144. Visit www. turnkeytechnologies.net to learn more about the company.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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