02/03/09 — Alliance will take year to get ready for recovery

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Alliance will take year to get ready for recovery

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 3, 2009 1:46 PM

Faced with the current economic downturn, the Wayne County Development Alliance recently adopted new goals for 2009 -- goals President Joanna Helms said should put the county in a more favorable position once the economy improves.

"Right now, being in the current economy, we're looking at product development," she said. "We had a good year in 2007 and a good year in 2008. Now 2009 is probably going to be a little slow. So we're just trying to get some things done so that when the economy does turn around, we'll be ready."

And with a long-vacant research and marketing position recently filled, that means a renewed effort on external marketing, including a focus on recruitment of suppliers to surround Spirit AeroSystems at the Global TransPark in Kinston.

"We know there will be some secondary companies looking to locate in the area because of Spirit and not all of them will want to go to the GTP," Mrs. Helms said.

Also part of those efforts to promote Wayne County will be the creation of a new marketing plan and an updated Web site.

"We want a more focused, comprehensive marketing plan so we're not just doing a shotgun approach," she said. "And then when this economy turns around, we'll have a better shot than someone who didn't do any pro-active marketing."

Of course, she continued, to make those efforts work there has to be something to market.

So this year the Alliance is planning to appeal to FEMA regarding its McArthur industrial site at the corner of Arrington Bridge Road and John Street.

The problem, Mrs. Helms explained, is that when FEMA came out with its new floodplain maps in 2005, the site was listed as being in the 100-year floodplain -- even though it "never had standing water during the floods of '99."

Attempts to sell the property for other uses, however, have been unsuccessful, she said, so the Alliance's board decided to try to recover what had been a 70-acre certified site.

Other development work this year will include the completion of Phase 1 -- plans, engineering and soil borings -- for a new shell building in the ParkEast industrial park, and planning for Phases 2 and 3.

"That's our premier industrial park in Goldsboro," Mrs. Helms said, adding that any new shell building would likely be around 120,000 square feet, and built only after the vacant 50,000-square-foot structure in Mount Olive is filled.

Work also will include the certification of the recently optioned 104-acre site along the Duplin County line off of Lee's Road, and the continued review of other potential sites in the county.

"We'd love to have a site in the northern end of the county and a site out on (U.S.) 70 West," she said.

But not all of the Alliance's efforts are focused on industrial recruitment. It's also trying to continue to help those already in Wayne County.

That includes making sure businesses are aware of the resources available through the Alliance, such as help with work force training and development, particularly through the WorkKeys Career Readiness Certificate program, grant applications and state Department of Transportation issues.

And right now, Mrs. Helms said, such assistance is more important than ever.

"It's little things like that," she said. "At the end of the day, we're not equipped to single-handedly fix the economy -- nobody is. We're definitely feeling the effects, but I don't think Wayne County is going to be crushed by this economy. That's the good thing about having a diverse manufacturing base.

"We don't have any concerns somebody might close, but there might be some expansion plans that have been shelved, or some temporary workers who have been laid off. We're cautiously optimistic, though, that we can weather the next 18 months."

Mrs. Helms also is cautiously optimistic that the Alliance will be able to continue its private sector fundraising efforts through its Impact Wayne campaign, which has brought in around $200,000 a year since 2006 -- dollars that primarily go for marketing and product development.

"Companies are looking to cut wherever they can, but I don't think it will hinder us. We'll just have to be very frugal and wise about how we spend those dollars," she said.

Beginning the fourth year of a five-year campaign, the Alliance also is planning to evaluate that effort in order to prepare for a potential new push in 2011, as well as an evaluation of the need for a new long-range plan.

'We're getting to a point where most of the specific items on our long-range plan are either complete or under way," she said.

And finally, the Alliance is hoping to continue to focus on the northern end of the county in the towns of Fremont, Pikeville and Eureka.

"They're interested in development and would love to have some more business opportunities in the north," Mrs. Helms said. "And we had some meetings (last year) and gave them some suggestions based on a study we had done.

"We started the ball rolling and it's really in their hands now. We just want to make sure we assist them and cultivate the private sector leadership up there because it has to go beyond that (municipal) staff level. That's how things got done in Goldsboro and Mount Olive."