Economic development needs total community’s involvement

Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We are a private non-profit corporation, governed by a dedicated board of directors who assist with overall policy direction. This cooperative economic development organization was an outcome of the joint Franklin Southampton Alliance, which studied many areas of city and county joint collaborative efforts.

Many of those in the community have opinions, thoughts and ideas about what “economic development” is or should be. Very simply, it boils down to creating well paying jobs for our citizens; attracting new capital investment, which eventually equates into new tax revenues for the city and county; creating new small business opportunities for those having the entrepreneurial spirit; and, ensuring our community has a vibrant quality of life for its citizens.

However, achieving those goals is the real challenge. A community must be prepared with good strategic planning, comprehensive land use plans, and public utility capacity in place to allow for new economic fortunes to come its way. What are all those key ingredients for success and how do we achieve them? Here is a “short list” to identify what we need to pay attention to:

Real Estate:

* Developed business parks with utility services

* Greenfield sites for large project investments

* Speculative or existing building inventory


* Water and wastewater excess capacity

* Reasonable and competitive utility fees

* Electric utility capacity

* Natural gas capacity

* Highway improvement plans

* Rail service infrastructure


* Labor supply

* Training facilities and programs

* Workforce readiness skill training


* School accreditation achievements

* Higher education availability

* School facility improvement plans

* Flexible and adaptable curriculum

* Technical skill development programs

Public Sector Services:

* Public safety staffing – police and fire

* Solid waste services

* Comprehensive Planning

* Competitive local business tax rates

* Business-friendly ordinances

* Prompt customer service

* Pro-business attitude

* Litter control programs

Quality of Life:

* Cultural and entertainment activities

* Parks and outdoor recreation programs

* Tennis and golf facilities

* Libraries and museums

* Shopping amenities

* Dining and restaurants

Some “short list,” huh? Clearly, you can see your community’s ingredients are evaluated closely by prospective and existing business and small business entrepreneurs to see if we measure up to their expectations. So, how do we achieve them? No community is perfect; but we all must contribute, as citizens and as community leaders, to make sure our community is competitive with all these ingredients to some degree.

What is your role going to be? “Community Leadership” is needed to keep our area growing and staying vibrant. Community leadership is not just political leaders or business leaders; it is every citizen of our community. Don’t look at your neighbor’s house and wonder if they are stepping forward or not…if we all do our part, we can be successful in today’s competitive global business environment.

In the end, smart and progressive economic growth is achieved by us “as a community.” It doesn’t come overnight, and it doesn’t always satisfy everyone’s expectations within their perceived timeframe. However, it will happen. Be patient! Find a way to contribute your time, energy, desire and particular expertise to insure our community’s business climate is as positive as it can be.