When ideas excite our competitors, we're in trouble

May 17, 2013

The wholesale change in state government policy when it comes to creating jobs has some in the economic development realm “giddy” with excitement. Unfortunately, it is those in adjoining states who are excited.

Mark Clasby, Haywood County’s economic development director, is also the incoming president of the N.C. Economic Developer’s Association. At a recent EDC board meeting, Clasby told the group that the 600-plus member state association has allied members who also belong to the economic development groups across the Southeast. These members are in fields such as energy, transportation, construction, etc., and look for opportunities where they exist. Clasby said he was told that proposed policy changes in Raleigh were discussed at the South Carolina economic development association.

“They no longer see us as a competitor,” Clasby said, reporting that upending of the current business recruitment system in North Carolina will take the state out of the running.

The three biggest changes under discussion include the commerce department reorganization, eliminating the partnerships in rural areas where counties work together to recruit business and the lack of state funds available for incentives.

Clasby was particularly distressed about the plans to dissolve AdvantageWest, a 23-county regional economic development group that has been very successful. Plans call to consolidate all the regional efforts within the N.C. Department of Commerce, something Clasby fears will put rural areas at an extreme disadvantage.

The new ideas are coming at a time when business appears to be looking up in Haywood. ConMet is hiring more employees, Sonoco is expanding, Sunburst Trout has plans to relocate its processing facility which will allow for expansion, the local food industry is gaining momentum with expanded marketing opportunities and several leads are being explored to locate business in the Beaverdam Industrial Park outside Canton.

It would be a shame to upend a process that at least seems to work in rural areas in favor of an untried plan that makes those in neighboring states that are courting the same industries “giddy.”

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