What industry does Rutherford County go after?
Rutherford County Commissioners and the Economic Development Commission received an eye-opening report about the direction the county needs to go for its future.
The long-awaited target market study was presented by Robin Spinks of Greenfield Development during a joint meeting of commissioners and the EDC Wednesday morning.
Over the course of the six-month study, Spinks said there are eight business sectors, or target markets, the county can attract with its current infrastructure and base sites and facilities. Those included: automotive suppliers, data centers, call/contact/customer service centers, advanced materials production, creative class small business, film recruitment, life care communities and value-added agriculture.
Of those target markets, Spinks said the biggest potential for Rutherford County was automotive suppliers.
“We think this is a very important sector for Rutherford County,” Spinks said. “A lot of the regional allies have also targeted those similar sectors.”
The advantages Rutherford County has is an experienced labor pool in plastics and metalworking, proximity to BMW and Freightliner and that industry has targeted areas in North and South Carolina.
Across the county, Spinks said, there are a number of buildings best suited for data centers, such as the Facebook Data Center. Those benefits can also translate into the county attracting call centers similar to Ameridial in Spindale.
“There are so many buildings in the county that have low ceilings and those are ideal for these kinds of centers,” Spinks said.
Another target market Spinks said the county could attract is advanced materials manufacturing such as metals, chemicals, some paper, machinery, glass, carbon fiber and plastics.
Some of the benefits she said the county had for that market is proximity to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport because many of the companies that are part of that industry are foreign and the county has ready access to the Broad River along with other utility infrastructure.
“This has become a serious growth industry,” Spinks said. “These industries are dependent on electric and gas which is a very good fit for the county because of what you have to offer.”
An interesting target market Spinks suggested in her report was creative class small business which are businesses that don’t require a corporate office. She said the county has solid quality of life assets and tourism assets that attract businesses of that nature.
“One thing that really can spur the creative class is things like free wi-fi Internet access in the downtown area,” Spinks said. “Towns can also look at getting involved in the Main Street process.”
Film recruitment is another market the county can attract by capitalizing on assets such as historic towns and its reputation of having films such as “Dirty Dancing” and “Last of the Mohicans” filmed in the county.
That industry, Spinks said, can have lasting effects on a community even after their work is finished.
“In Wilmington, the film industry is booming and the community will thrive from it,” Spinks said. “During one film, the Wilmington area experienced a 75 percent growth in tourism after the movie came out and 50 percent of those people were asking for relocation packets.”
Markets like life care and elder care communities are suited for Rutherford County because of the quality of life assets and there is no need for additional infrastructure to create the communities.
In the end, commissioners directed Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen to begin developing an action plan based on the recommendations provided by Greenfield.
“We can’t lose focus on what we need to be doing,” said Julius Owens, Commission chairman. “We have to work together and promote our strengths as well as work on our weaknesses.”