EDC program off and running

May. 25, 2013 @ 05:30 AM

A program aimed at retaining and expanding current business in Rutherford County is seemingly off to a strong start.

The Work, Grow, Thrive program — spearheaded by the Rutherford County Economic Development Commission (EDC) — was initiated in October 2012 to point local businesses in the direction of available resources, solve problems and challenges and encourage expansion leading to sustainable job growth.

“It was a little difficult to get started but it seems to have really picked up,” said EDC Project Administrator Mary Taylor. “Overall, it’s been a great experience and I think people have been very excited about my coming.”

Taylor said, as of this week, she has made contact with 37 different companies across the county ranging from very small to large. Taylor said the businesses are kept confidential.

The program is built on five phases including: business organization identification, information gathering and database creation, industry relations and direct information gathering, problem solving and opportunity identification and, program maintenance and public relations.

“It is the really small companies where there seems to be a real want to share ideas,” Taylor said.

In the first steps of the program Taylor said she finds out about company details, supply chain information, labor, training needs, utilities, sustainability, technology needs, growth and success for the future

“Almost every visit, I have been able to identify some resource that can be provided,” Taylor said.

The intent of the program is not only to help current businesses retain what they have but also to encourage a long-range plan to expand and keep community leaders aware of any potential changes that existing businesses are planning.

It also encourages a working partnership with other agencies such as Isothermal Community College, the Region C Workforce Development Board, Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and NC State Industrial Extension Service.

Through the first round of visits Taylor said there have been outside resources identified for local businesses to use.

“One of the most helpful things that has been introduced in the state is a website called mnc.com and it really helps manufacturing companies in the state on things like supply and exposure,” Taylor said.

After the first visit the program will provide a written report to the individual businesses to go over the initial contact.

EDC Director Matt Blackwell said the first visit with businesses is crucial but the second visit is vital.

“The program, being new and these visits being new, it takes some buy-in from the businesses,” Blackwell said. “The first visit is an introduction and to test the waters.

“It is the second visit we make where you start to see the benefits and the buy-in. We need to have the industries in our community communicating with each other.”

Now, with initial contact being made the next step for the program is making that important second visit.

“We are discussing and following up with all of these meetings,” Taylor said. “Nothing falls off until something has been addressed.”

Phasing the process, Blackwell said, is critical to ensuring the program is successful.

“We did not want to overwhelm these businesses with the first visit,” Blackwell said. “Now we can even take some of our partners to show businesses what is out there to help them.”

The intent not just to start the program and let businesses on their own but to also encourage communication between the businesses in the program and the EDC.

“What we want to see is participation from the company so they can feel free to call our office for help,” Blackwell said. “In the end, we hope those businesses can grow and invest in the community.”