FSEDI trots globe in jobs pursuit

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, March 17, 2010

■ Fifth in a series

FRANKLIN—Officials with Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. criss-crossed the country and traveled to Europe once in its bid to bring jobs and businesses to Franklin and Southampton County.

“Much is learned from these contacts,” said John Smolak, the organization’s president and CEO. “Some trips are very industry-focused, so we learn about economic and business trends in that industry sector.”

According to information provided by Smolak and FSEDI’s Board of Directors, representatives of the organization went on 10 trips, officially called “marketing missions,” during the 2009 fiscal year.

How much was spent

The trips collectively cost $20,982.90. Most were to domestic destinations, but one was to Vancouver, Canada, and another was to Hannover, Germany.

FSEDI has a $700,000 annual operating budget, including $150,000 each from the City of Franklin and Southampton County. Two additional stakeholders, the Camp Foundations and Franklin-Southampton Charities, contribute the rest of the funds for FSEDI, which was founded in August 2005.

Based on its $700,000 annual operating budget, FSEDI allocated 3 percent of its budget toward travel expenses. However, FSEDI only spent $513,606 of the $700,000 it was given for fiscal 2009, so travel amounted to 4 percent of actual expenditures.

Comparatively, FSEDI spent $14,558 and $22,228 on travel expenses during the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years, respectively. Those figures represented allocations of 2.0 and 3.2 percent of their respective annual operating budgets, but they were 3.44 and 4.86 percent of the money FSEDI actually spent. The organization spent $422,872 in fiscal 2007 and $457,380 in fiscal 2008.

FSEDI has so far spent $5,649 on travel during the current fiscal year.

Where FSEDI went

Five of the trips were in tandem with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and four were with the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance. HREDA membership costs FSEDI $54,000 a year.

“We partner with the region and the state economic development organizations to gain maximum marketing opportunities in a very cost-effective way,” Smolak said. “These missions are intended to develop business prospects interested in both the Hampton Roads area as well as the Commonwealth.”

Smolak and Tommy Miller, business development manager for FSEDI, each made five trips.

The trips began in August 2008, when Miller went to Vancouver with HREDA for a “corporate marketing mission,” which Smolak and the board noted was made because “HREDA identified several targeted companies as part of their international marketing program. FSEDI continues to follow up with contacts expressing a need for a U.S. location on the East Coast.”

The same month, Smolak traveled to the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta with representatives of VEDP. The trip was to target wood-products companies.

Miller made two trips in October, both with VEDP. The first was to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals conference in Denver, the second for the Natural Products Expo East in Boston.

The latter “continues to be a targeted industry sector for Virginia and matches up well with FSEDI’s focus to assist agribusiness in our area,” Smolak and the board said of the Boston expo.

The next month, Smolak went to the CoreNet Global Summit in Orlando with VEDP officials.

CoreNet is “a national and international organization of real estate directors and managers for large worldwide corporations,” Smolak said. “VEDP sponsored both an exhibit and a special reception for networking with decision-makers. (I) made several new contacts to follow up with specific marketing information.”

In February 2009, Miller attended the Retail Industry Leaders Association Conference in Dallas with HREDA. Smolak said this show was attended by “major logistics and distribution directors for the retail sector, such as Wal-mart, Target and many others. HREDA sponsored an exhibit, plus the Virginia Port Authority also (attended the) conference (and had) an exhibit for networking sessions.”

Smolak returned to Dallas the next month with HREDA to attend a “major forum” by the Southern Economic Development Council.

More than 40 site consultants attended the seminar, “plus (FSEDI and HREDA) visited a consultant firm with a project for Hampton Roads. (It was) an excellent contact and networking opportunity with major site location consultants.”

Miller made the trip to Germany and the Hannover Industrial Fair in April with HREDA.

It is “the largest industrial trade fair in the world, hosting a variety of industrial manufacturers,” Smolak said. “A large emphasis was on renewable-energy projects. (Miller) made contacts with over 25 new firms, held several outside appointments and visited existing firms with operations in the Hampton Roads area.”

Also in April, Smolak attended a second CoreNet Global Summit with VEDP officials, this one in Dallas. It was the third trip to Dallas by FSEDI officials, and Smolak made back-to-back trips there.

He said he made 10 new contacts and followed up with several existing contacts and consultants.

“VEDP sponsored an exhibit to facilitate networking with participants,” Smolak said.

The last trip of the fiscal year was made by Smolak in May, when he traveled to Norfolk to attend the annual Virginia Maritime Association meeting, where he “made several new contacts with logistics and distribution providers and spent time with a third-party logistics provider company from Michigan with plans to consider the Hampton Roads area.”