02/14/10 — Impact Wayne looks ahead

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Impact Wayne looks ahead

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 14, 2010 1:50 AM

Anyone questioning the need for a private sector component, such as Impact Wayne, to help boost economic development in Wayne County has to look no further than the new AT&T Call Center and its more than 400 jobs, says county Development Alliance President Ray McDonald Sr.

"It (Impact Wayne) has really been the lifesaver for economic development," said McDonald, who is the mayor of Mount Olive. His comments came following the organization's fourth annual meeting held Thursday at the Lane Tree Golf Club.

"It shows that the industries and business are supporting this effort. If it hadn't been for them we couldn't be here today. I mean, this is not taxpayers' money. That really says a lot. I don't know of any other economic development that has this.

"It is private investors who see the need to move Wayne County forward and by doing so they invest their money through the Development Alliance and allow us to spend it the best way we feel is necessary to bring jobs to our county. That is what it is all about, creating jobs."

McDonald noted that Impact Wayne is in the fifth year of its first fundraising campaign and that the second five-year effort would start in the fall.

"Hopefully we will be able to raise the money, but I don't think they have set the goal yet," he said. "As soon as goal set try to raise that money and put it to good use.

"AT&T is a prime example, 425 jobs, you can't hardly put a price on that. They (Impact Wayne) made a $100,000 grant to help them (AT&T) upgrade the facility. That is private money. It is not taxpayers' money. That makes a big difference. We are well pleased with the last five years and hopefully we will be more pleased with the next five years."

Impact Wayne's Jim Daniels reported that 85 investors contributed $139,300 in 2009, down from $157,350 raised the previous year. The campaign has raised $593,000 over the past four years.

Daniels said the fundraising got off to a slow start the first year, but then gained ground over the next two before starting to drop off.

Daniels said there are four areas in which private sector funds are invested for development -- long-term investments, projects assistance, marketing and project development.

He said contacts from companies about possible relocations to the area had led to the creation of a draft of relocation assistance brochure listing only companies that contribute to Impact Wayne.

The companies, such as real estate, that are listed provide assistance and support for people relocating to the county.

Alliance President Joanna Helms said that Impact Wayne started the year with $285,906 and ended with $440,808. Deposits and interests during the year totaled $228,916 and expenditures were $74,014.

The amount on hand included $100,000 restricted for use for the AT&T Call Center.

Mrs. Helms said that over the past year, 279 new jobs were added in the county, but that another 428 were lost -- a net loss of 149. Triangle Spring in Mount Olive added 10 new employees on its way to a goal of more than 100 employees, she said.

Also, 13 companies expanded, making an investment of $14 million. Of that total, $10.2 million was spent by existing businesses and $3.8 million was in new growth by Triangle Spring which plans to eventually invest $6.1 million in the Wayne.

Mrs. Helms noted that 126 jobs were lost when Turkington moved to Johnston County. However, of the 120 jobs that relocated, about half of those people still live in Wayne, she said.

Downtown lost another 126 jobs when a call center and its management company closed.

She pulled no punches in describing the year as a difficult one for business development.

"2009, yeah it stunk," she said. "It was tough. We had a hard time as well at the economic development office, but we got through it.

"We have stayed busy with all of the things that we need to do so that when the recession does turn around that, and we know it is eventually, slowly, but we will be ready. We will not be scrambling at the last minute to get our information, our ducks in a row, and we will be ready to assist those clients those new and existing industries when they have that need."

She said the county received 41 requests for information that resulted in eight client visits last year.

One highlight she noted, even though it did not happen through Alliance efforts, was the announcement by Progress Energy of a $900 million investment in replacing its coal-fired Goldsboro plant with a new one powered by natural gas.

"That will be a great economic engine for Wayne County," she said.

The new facility is expected to begin operations in 2013.

Another highlight was the international economic development award received by the WORKS (Wayne Occupational Readiness Keys for Success) program, she said.

Proposed Alliance goals for 2010 include:

* ParkEast third shell building, select alternative site and continue action steps for construction

* Complete site certification on the Britt property south of Mount Olive

* Begin recertification process at ParkEast and Mount Olive Industrial Park. Ms. Helms said the state has changed the process for certification and there are 25 items to meet to make the site "shovel ready" for development

* Continue to review potential sites for options/development, particularly in northern Wayne.

* Complete a building inventory assessment

* Conduct an employment/underemployment study.

"We thank you for what you do for Wayne County," McDonald told attendees. "If not for you we would not have what we have now. You are what make the wheels in this county turn."