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County leaders form ‘Economic Recovery Task Force’ to help businesses reopen safely

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As businesses begin reopening and operating under the guidance of Gov. Roy Cooper’s phased plan, local leaders have formed a Rowan Economic Recovery Task Force that focuses on “getting the cash registers ringing again” in a safe and healthy way.

The task force is primarily a collaboration between the county’s Economic Development Commission, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. They have worked together since COVID-19 appeared to provide the business community and displaced workers with resources and information. 

The task force chair is Pete Teague of Livingstone College. He said the purpose of the task force isn’t to determine when and if businesses should reopen, but rather how its members can assist businesses as they reopen and transition into full operation. 

The Tourism Development Authority will be providing businesses with information kits that include floor decals, social distancing decals, hand sanitizers and face coverings. The “goodie bags” are complimentary and serve as one less financial burden for businesses to endure as they reopen while following state and federal guidelines. The kit, which can be delivered, also serves as a way to promote the county, as each item includes the county’s “Be an Original” brand.

And as gathering outside is allowed under Cooper’s first phase, Tourism Development Authority CEO James Meacham said marketing will soon be directed at promoting local parks, which he said can serve as a “great place to have picnics” after grabbing food from a local restaurant. 

The Economic Development Commission will continue to survey businesses to measure the scope of the economic impact. EDC President and CEO Rod Crider said the organization is continuing to market the county with an expectation of “pent up demand,” particularly from businesses currently interested in relocating to Rowan County. He said the EDC is currently working on preparing four sites for potential new businesses.

Crider added that economists have predicted a reconsideration of supply chains, resulting in suppliers wanting to relocate closer to their clients. He anticipates the same for Rowan County.

“Now communities like Rowan County are looking extremely attractive,” said county commissioner chairman Greg Edds, emphasizing the appeal for businesses to move out of large cities and into surrounding areas with populations that are less dense. 

Additionally, Crider sees a need to have more research and data online for businesses interested in moving here, as some may be more hesitant to conduct in-person site visits. The EDC plans to relaunch additional digital tools, with one being a detailed labor dataset from Chmura Economics and Analytics that will identify any skills gap remaining in the county.

“This is an opportunity for us to adopt new practices and new ways of doing things from what we’ve learned here to help us avoid getting into this situation in the future,” Crider said. “Or maybe be better prepared and more resilient as a community to threats like this in the future.”

The Chamber of Commerce’s focus is geared toward expanding its business advocacy role for both federal and state economic business relief packages. Additionally, Chamber President Elaine Spalding said the organization is working to provide the business community with workforce initiatives and informative webinars.

The chamber has also facilitated some virtual, peer-to-peer discussions with experts that have allowed business leaders to ask questions and receive one-on-one guidance about how to handle business operations moving forward. 

She added that the chamber aims to help displaced workers by “encouraging them to answer that call if they get a call to come back to work.” Additionally, the chamber plans to direct information about higher education opportunities to people who might have been working multiple jobs prior to the pandemic.

“All of these leaders have a critical role to play,” Edds said. “What they are doing is monumental. And we’ll look back on it and see this as a real turning point in our community.”

Teague said that while economists have said consumer confidence is key in the economic recovery, business confidence can drive consumer confidence. Therefore, the task force’s role is to help businesses be as successful and safe as possible as they reopen.

“We need to get back to work. We have to get back to work,” Edds said. “So these folks are going to help us do that in a healthy way.”

The community resource portal is at visitsalisburync.com/plan.

Other members of the Rowan Economic Task Force are:

  • Nicole Holmes-Matangira of Holmes Iron and Metal
  • Tony Almeida of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College at NCRC
  • Kelly Alexander of the N.C. Transportation Museum
  • Aaron Church, county manager
  • Starling Johnson Kaklamanos of Johnson Concrete
  • John Ketner of Ketner & Associates
  • Michelle Patterson of Patterson Farm
  • Bryan Overcash of Global Contact Services
  • Randy Welch of Duke Energy

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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