Our location lets us think regionally, profit locally

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2007

The City of Franklin and Southampton County are fortunate in many ways. The community is located in the Hampton Roads Region which offers many urban business and cultural opportunities within a short commute and yet maintains close ties to a rural economic base and rural community lifestyle.

However, many studies tell us that rural areas generally are lagging behind in the area of creating or adding new jobs.

As part of a rural economy setting, how do we tap into a map of the new growing economy?

Well, our map needs to have three routes that guide economic development decisions:

-1) is thinking and acting regionally;

-2) is finding the right economic niche(s) for the area; and

-3) is putting a premium on our existing businesses and developing entrepreneurs.

The Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. (FSEDI) is proud to be a member of the Hampton Roads Economic Alliance (HREDA), a regional marketing organization that promotes new investment into the Hampton Roads Region on a global basis.

Regional thinking and marketing is driven by the fact that competing successfully in a worldwide marketplace requires a critical mass that even large cities and counties cannot accomplish alone. By having Franklin and Southampton compete as part of the Hampton Roads Region, it gives us economic market opportunities and the potential to add new jobs and investment from the outside world. You just can’t ignore hitting the proverbial “home run” that brings a new company or investment to our region or community.

Finding the right economic niche is part of how we can take advantage of our regional assets and our own local assets to grow and diversify the economic base. One example would be The Virginia Port Authority. The Virginia Port Authority has tremendous assets in their port terminal locations which bring to the region an “economic engine” we can’t ignore.

We are fortunate to have the Route 58 corridor and Route 460 corridor running through our community because it provides us with the opportunity to take advantage of the Port of Virginia’s economic growth to be attractive to logistics and distribution operations.

This particular niche industry sector is part of the growing worldwide marketplace and we are planning to be ready for its growth potential to help diversify our regional economic base.

In my way of thinking, the most important route is to make sure we pay attention to the value of our existing industries and agri-businesses common to rural areas and promote homegrown entrepreneurs. We must value the economic impact our existing businesses and industry add to the community in job creation, taxes paid and corporate giving to local charities for special needs.

That is why we have a Franklin Southampton Business Support Team calling on our existing industry and making sure we attempt to address issues companies have with workforce needs, assisting with expansions and job retention and addressing local business climate issues.

Finally, to succeed you need to support a new generation of entrepreneurs; locally grown companies and businesses that create local jobs and create local wealth which in the long run will add much more economic return to the community. That’s why the support FSEDI receives from the city, county and private foundations to provide a business atmosphere for entrepreneurial companies at the Franklin Business Incubator is so important.

The Incubator Program provides opportunities for regional and local entrepreneurs to expand their ideas and then graduate to other permanent business locations in our community.

Today’s world market requires rural areas to think differently about their economic development strategies and the routes they take which create the new “economic engines” for our future.