The positives of Rutherford County

Study shows advantages for economic development
Jul. 05, 2013 @ 04:46 AM

No one is denying that Rutherford County has challenges when it comes to attracting new businesses.

However, a target market study presented to the Rutherford County Commission also indicated the county does have things working for it.

The report, compiled by Greenfield Development based in Wilmington, said there were things working in the county's favor when it came to trying to bring in new businesses and jobs to the area.

The biggest was infrastructure. The study stated the county has easy and cost-effective access to electricity, fiber optic Internet and a strong water and sewer foundation.

"This is the most viable asset the county has," said Robin Spinks, of Greenfield Development. "The electrical capability and cost is something that is rare in other areas of North Carolina."

With its proximity to the Duke Energy electrical plant in Cliffside, she said the county has a readily-available supply of electrical transmission — a strong component that site consultants look for when viewing potential sites for new industry.

She cited the sewer capacity in Spindale and Forest City as strong infrastructure assets. Capacity of the Broad River for additional intake and discharge was another potential selling point for new business.

Additionally, Rutherford County is situated in the center of a strong labor force population.

Within a 50-mile radius of Rutherford County sits 676,000 people between Charlotte, Spartanburg and Asheville as well as the workforce located inside the county.

It is that workforce that provides another strength for the county.

Spinks said the culture of the workforce provides advantages. She said the population has a "strong" work ethic as well as a heritage in manufacturing.

She said workers in the region are more adaptable to retooling their skills for new industry and the higher unemployment can provide new industry with a significant workforce for new projects.

The county's existing business is another strong asset for future economic development.

The report said the county has a high percentage of the workforce already skilled in some form of manufacturing and existing clusters of manufacturing — such as plastics, metals, wood products and textiles.

The county can also offer what Spinks called "significant tourism assets" such as Chimney Rock and Lake Lure to draw new business and additional labor to the area.

There are also existing buildings and sites that can provide attraction to the area. Spinks specifically said the Riverstone shell building is one of those buildings that could be repurposed for another manufacturing venture.

Partnerships with other economic development organizations such as AdvantageWest, the Charlotte Regional Partnership and Upstate SC Alliance can do nothing but help the county, Spinks said.

Finally, Spinks said that local government has a "reputation for aggressive deal-closing" which can be a driving factor in attracting a new business to the area.

All told, despite the limitations Rutherford County has, Spinks said it also provides attractions that can increase the county's viability to enhance economic development.

"Sometimes you go into a community and think 'what are we going to do?'" Spinks said. "But, we see a lot of unique potential here in Rutherford County."