12/12/13 — Alliance looks at existing spaces

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Alliance looks at existing spaces

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 12, 2013 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Identifying urban sites for redevelopment was among the ideas that emerged from the Wayne County Development Alliance's planning retreat held Wednesday.

Such projects could help the organization beef up its inventory of available buildings, enabling it to more quickly respond to the needs of a potential new or expanding business, leaders said.

The ready availability of quality buildings is a driving force in enticing new business and industry to locate in an area, development officials said. In fact, surveys indicate that 84 percent of companies are in the market for a building to move into, said Crystal Morphis, the chief executive officer of Creative Economic Development Consulting, who facilitated the event held at the Sleep Inn on N.C. 55 West.

The more than 30 people who attended the retreat spent the better part of six hours reviewing the Alliance's strategic plan, listening to presentations by county, Goldsboro and Mount Olive officials and discussing economic development trends.

Following the presentations, they divided into two groups to brainstorm on two topics -- product development and business retention/expansion and workforce development.

Identifying possible redevelopment sites, possibly the area of George Street and John Street in Goldsboro between the former Kemp Manufacturing plant and Dewey Brothers, topped the list of suggestions for product development.

"There are a lot of old buildings that maybe could be utilized for another purpose," Alliance board member Jim Daniels said. "Or they could be demolished. We have all of the infrastructure there, and I think it would be a win-win situation.

"We could revitalize an old site and get it cleaned up, increase tax revenues there and maybe even increase some urban development there -- people coming in working and moving downtown. I just think it would be a very positive thing all around to try to clean up some of these old areas and put new life into them."

Also, instead of building a shell building, the county should attempt to identify some existing buildings that could be up-fitted or retro-fitted that would be attractive for redevelopment to offer a potential client, he said.

Board member Grey Morgan suggested the process include virtual or conceptual development for the site.

Duke Energy offers a program whereby experts visit a site, evaluate it and produce some conceptual drawings that could be used to market the site, Daniels said.

"Of course to do all of this, you have got to have funding," he said. "One of the things that we need to do is look at various options for seed funding for these projects."

That could include gathering a group of investors, or bringing banks together, he said.

Daniels noted the percentage of companies looking to move into a standing building.

"We need some building inventory in our product development," he said. "I think that is going to be important because if they don't find it here, they are going to find it somewhere else."

Several years ago, before the Global TransPark at Kinston landed Spirit AeroSystems, Wayne County had been looking to partner with other counties, including Pitt, Lenoir and Greene, he said. The idea was to participate in the development of the TransPark with Wayne and other counties providing some funding, he said.

"Then, once it got up and running, we would participate in some of the revenues," Daniels said. "It may be, since things have kind of cooled off over there, it might be the time to do that again."

Ms. Morphis suggested that another recommendation to consider is incentives targeted to companies that participate in redevelopment projects. Some communities provide a higher level of incentives for companies to locate in redeveloped areas, she said.

"I think the county has shown that in the past several years it is real involved in incentives to attract jobs," Wayne County Commission Chairman Wayne Aycock said. "I can only speak for myself, but I feel like the county will actively be involved in recruitment.

"I mean when you can spend a dollar today and in a very short time get back $2 in taxes ... ."

Alliance Vice President Mike Haney spoke on behalf of the group that discussed business expansion/retention and workforce development.

Workforce development is so broad a subject that it requires much more than the 30 minutes the group had to discuss it, Haney said.

"What we think that we need to do is to form an advisory committee to investigate the need for an advanced manufacturing center for excellence, as well as other workforce initiatives. This would involve bringing in partners in education, industry, government, economic development as well as our allies."

The county has $3 million worth of manufacturing equipment coming into the county at Wayne Community College, he said.

The center would not only help provide training services needed by existing industries, but would serve as a recruitment tool as well, he said.

It is not a pipe dream, WCC President Dr. Kay Albertson said. Mrs. Albertson said she already has a blueprint for such a facility.

Haney said a meeting would be held after the holidays to "get the ball rolling" in that area.

He noted that the state does not have anything to offer some of the smaller, homegrown industries that are not looking to go to another state or area.

"We would like to take a look to see what we could do locally as far has having some sort of assistance plan to get them to the next level," Haney said.

Ms. Morphis said that her group talked about a revolving loan program for small manufacturing companies.

Also discussed was the importance of students earning Career Readiness Certificates and third-party training certification.