Polk registers 70 new companies in first three months of 2014

Published 11:59pm Thursday, July 17, 2014

by Leah Justice

With the recent announcement of Tryon Resort and work continuing at developments such as Bright’s Creek, Polk County’s economic picture has turned around in the last few years.

Between January and March 2014, Polk County had already registered 70 new companies, which could set the county up to exceed last year’s 160 new companies registered.

New company statistics were part of the Polk County Economic and Tourism Development Commission’s (ETDC) annual report presented to county commissioners on Monday, July 7.

ETDC chair Ambrose Mills gave the annual report, which included unemployment rate changes, new companies, new building permits, manufacturing statistics, website visits, accomplishments, tourism statistics and goals for the board.

Unemployment rates

Polk County’s unemployment rate has steadily decreased since 2010 with Polk reaching the second lowest unemployment rate in the state in April 2014.

“The unemployment rate change for the county is really remarkable,” said Mills.

Mills said Polk nearly always has a lower unemployment rate than state and national averages.

Polk’s unemployment was 10 percent in January 2010, 8.2 percent in January 2013 and 4.9 percent in January 2014. Polk’s unemployment rate was 4.2 percent in April this year.

New companies

New companies registered in Polk County with the N.C. Secretary of State have remained similar over the past four years. In 2011 there were 142 new companies registered in Polk County, with 192 in 2012, 160 in 2013 and 70 through March of 2014.

New construction

Mills said new construction is rebounding and is expecting to grow even more in Polk County.

There were only three commercial building permits applied for in 2009 with 10 commercial permits applied for in 2010; four commercial permits in 2011, eight in 2012 and 2013 and nine so far in 2014. Residential building permits have remained somewhat steady over the past six years, according to the ETDC report. There were 51 residential building permits applied for in 2009; 39 in 2010; 41 in 2011; 43 in 2012; 47 in 2013 and 16 so far in 2014, according to the report.

ETDC accomplishments

Accomplishments for the year include the new business recruitment of Fendrich Industries, which Mills said included a grant with the ETDC winning the new business from South Carolina. The venture included a minimum of 23 new jobs with a $904,374 investment over three years and a 2,080 square foot additional facility constructed.

White Oak equestrian, now known as Tryon Resort, is also listed in the commission’s accomplishments in the report, with 400 projected new jobs in construction and a $90 million private investment over the next 10 years.

The ETDC has also helped AllRail Inc. with a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which is a metal recycling and reconditioning company with 10 new jobs expected in the company expansion. There will be a $400,000 investment over three years and a 1,848 square foot additional facility is being constructed, according to the ETDC annual report.

The Green River Adventures expansion of The Gorge, created 18 new jobs with a $1.5 million investment over three years, according to the report.

“In addition to other outdoor adventures, the canopy zipline is the steepest, fastest in the country,” states the ETDC’s report.

Other accomplishments noted in the report include in communications and technology. The commission launched a new county economic development website at www.polked.org, a new First Peak tourism website at www.firstpeaknc.com; created a monthly newsletter called re-Imagine Polk, created a bi-weekly e-newsletter listing job opportunities and has coordinated with the N.C. Association of County Commissioners film crew to produce a short film on Polk County to broadcast on cable stations.

The ETDC also facilitated the pending sale of Woodland Mills, the sale of the formerly owned Jervey-Palmer building, counseled small local businesses through SCORE Chapter, listed the James Tool building and continues to market the building and approved small grants for HandMade in America training, among other accomplishments, according the report.

Tourism

Tourism and occupancy tax in Polk County seems to be on the rebound, according to the ETDC report.

Occupancy tax, which is collected at hotels and bed and breakfasts throughout the county, generated $58,919 in 2005 and $69,547 in 2013. So far in fiscal year 2014 (through February), Polk generated $45,785 in occupancy tax with four months remaining in the fiscal year.

The highest year for occupancy tax over the past almost 10 years occurred in 2008 when the county generated $74,873 in occupancy tax, according to the report.

Tourism spending grew from 2008 through 2012 as well. Annual tourism spending in 2008 in Polk County was $19,800,8000; in 2009 it was $19,020,000; in 2010 it was $20,260,000; in 2011 it was $21,750,000 and in 2012 tourism spending was $22,630,000, according to the ETDC report.

Tourism statistics from 2008 until 2012 included that in 2012, Polk County ranked 80th in travel impact among North Carolina’s 100 counties and ranked 20th in travel impact of the 23 western counties.

More than 170 jobs in Polk County were directly attributed to travel in tourism, according to the report and travel generated a $3.11 million payroll in 2012.

“These statistics indicate a need for greater focus on tourism in Polk County,” states the report.

Strategies and goals

The ETDC’s annual report listed five goals it is currently focused on, which includes building on the county’s competitive advantage and leverage the marketplace, to establish and maintain a robust infrastructure, to create revitalized and vibrant communities, to develop healthy and innovative people and to create/support collaborative networks.

Action items

Mills said the ETDC board has several ongoing and planned activities. The county recently approved hiring a part-time clerical assistant to be shared by economic development and tourism 20 hours per week. The board plans to continue to maintain and enhance the economic development website, continue to work with community leaders to enhance and improve infrastructure, continue efforts to recruit a mid-priced lodging facility, continue with efforts to acquire industrial/commercial shovel ready facilities, continue to work with local educational facilities to develop job preparation and certification programs, continue to work with commissioners in the development and implementation of an economic development policy and strategic plan, study and develop methods and activities to enhance economic development activities in the county, increase involvement with local towns to support their economic development programs and to participate in collaborative efforts with Advantage West and the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“We’re experiencing a great revival of energy and progress,” Mills told commissioners. “Our board of commissioners and citizens should be proud we’re part of that. The ETDC is eager and capable of supporting all our missions.”

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