Need jobs, will travel

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We are heartened by the busy travel schedule of Franklin Southampton Economic Development leaders in recent years.

Competing in a global economy means taking your message to every corner of the earth, and FSEDI, according to travel logs provided to staff writer Charlie Passut as part of his ongoing look at the organization, has been working hard to do just that.

A modest 3 percent to 5 percent of the organization’s budget has been devoted to travel by President John Smolak and the organization’s No. 2 man, Tommy Miller, on economic development ventures across the United States and twice outside its borders — to Hannover, Germany, and Vancouver, Canada.

Most of the trips have been as part of regional and state delegations, thus holding down the cost of the ventures.

Franklin and Southampton County have a strong story to tell, and we commend Smolak and his team for seeking out diverse audiences to hear it. Prime geography, sound infrastructure, excellent quality of life, and — with the closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill — a large, skilled, available workforce are just a few of the selling points our community has to offer.

As it trots the globe in pursuit of jobs from elsewhere, we encourage FSEDI to put equal energy into fostering homegrown manufacturing and industrial jobs. From Camp Manufacturing to Franklin Equipment Co., this area’s best economic-development success stories have been the product of local entrepreneurs who had a vision, spunk and community support.

Franklin and Southampton still are home to many brilliant minds, especially in the engineering field. That talent needs to be embraced, encouraged and put to work on the next generation of job creation for this community. Also, many Franklin and Southampton natives who are living and excelling elsewhere retain a soft spot for the community that nurtured them and would be willing to invest their talent and money in a sound business concept that creates jobs and boosts the local economy.

We’re all for landing a big employer from outside the region or even another country, and we commend FSEDI’s pursuit of those jobs. In that quest, though, let’s be careful not to overlook possibilities right under our nose.