Polk County needs product to play economic development game

Published 9:10am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Locally, our neighboring counties have taken necessary steps to provide “product.”  Rutherford County, our neighbor to the east, offered the former Rutherford 74 Corporate Center, which was purchased in its entirety by Facebook. Rutherford County has an additional site, Rutherford Corporate 221 Center, still in development, as well as a private project, River Stone, with a spec building and a mega site.

McDowell County has made a dedicated effort to secure appropriate land and buildings and convert to industrial re-use. McDowell has developed an industrial park on the interstate giving the advantage of investing in the site with infrastructure and then controlling the site. The county currently has three company locations and is working on a fourth. Adds Chuck Abernathy, county manager, “You can have the greatest quality of life in the state and without product new businesses are difficult to attract.”

Finally Cleveland County, even further east toward Charlotte, has worked its seven-year plan to provide product. Kristin Fletcher, Cleveland County’s uber-achieving economic developer, points out that the county made a significant investment in securing business park space and then went into hyper-drive marketing what they have to the world. Their business parks include Disney, Merck call center, Hanes and Duke Energy Training Center among other big names. This has resulted in private investment of millions upon millions in the county over the past five years. It required a very large investment in infrastructure from Cleveland County. To its credit, Cleveland County also created a Manufacturing Academy, an 18-week program for high school seniors interested in a career in manufacturing, as well as a Teachers Academy, bridging the gap between industry and education.

Experts in site selection for relocating corporations insist that seeking a new corporate home starts with “product” – an actual piece of ground to relocate- and is closely followed by highly skilled and available work force, infrastructure, transportation, strategic location, quality of life for employees and a pro-business community. But, first, before recruiting starts, a menu of “product” is the opener. We need “product.”

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