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EDC takes new approach to strategic planning

SALISBURY — RowanWorks Economic Development Commission will take a different approach to strategic planning this year.
Rather than deciding during a single meeting what goals to set for the new fiscal year, which started July 1, EDC board members will spend several weeks discussing where to focus their efforts.
The board met Thursday to review the past year and talk about developing new objectives. Executive Director Robert Van Geons said he hopes to create a “more robust program of work,” including action items for each goal set by the board.
“I have a real sense there is a lot of support for economic development in this community right now,” he said. “We have a good reputation in Charlotte and Raleigh and in the development community as a community that can get things done.”
The EDC has one additional full-time employee, bringing the staff to four, as well as additional funding from Rowan County targeted at supporting existing industries. Van Geons said the agency also has about $38,000 that can be used to hire a contractor to help market and support existing industries.
Board members mentioned some of their top concerns as they considered a variety of “strategic conversations” the EDC will hold in the coming weeks, which could include other agencies and elected officials.
“We want to marry the workforce development and the business recruitment efforts,” board member Dr. Carol Spalding said.
New board member John Leatherman said industries already located in Rowan County should be the EDC’s prime target. Pete Teague, board member and outgoing chairman, said RowanWorks has focused more in the past three years on supporting existing industries.
“There is more emphasis on that than ever,” Teague said.
“Our number one marketing strategy for recruitment is supporting existing industries themselves,” Van Geons added.
Board member Jim Greene praised Van Geons and leaders of other agencies located in the Gateway Building for cutting costs and sharing resources in the past two years. Chairwoman Dianne Greene said the building is finally being used as it was intended, to encourage collaboration.
The EDC’s annual rent has fallen from $20,000 to $15,200 because the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce sold the building to the tourism authority, making the building tax-exempt and lowering rent for all tenants.
EDC staff again lamented the lack of industrial buildings for sale in Rowan County and said they had to turn down at least a dozen requests last year because they could not find a building to suit a company’s needs.
The EDC worked 71 projects last year.
“If we had the buildings, those project numbers would be substantially higher,” said Scott Shelton, project manager. “… There were several projects we had to pass on because we didn’t have the inventory.”
Van Geons said the GE and Champion Homes buildings, two companies that recently left, are now on the market.
Also during the annual meeting, Greene presented Teague with a gavel for his year of leadership as chairman. New officers include Spalding as secretary and Vice Chairman Paul Brown and Treasurer Stephen Kidd.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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