Bladen County Non-Profit Gathers National Economic Development Award

The U.S. Department of Commerce is giving its 2008 Excellence in Economic Development Award to Bladen's Bloomin' Agri-Industrial, Inc., a private non-profit real estate company operated in conjunction with the Bladen County Economic Development Commission. The "Excellence in Innovation" award, one of eight award categories for which the federal government considers nominations each year, cites Bladen's Bloomin's market driven strategy for helping grow the local economy. Sandy K. Baruah, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, will travel to Bladen County later this summer to personally present the award to Bladen County leaders.

"The pioneering model of a non-profit real estate entity serving the county's product development and job growth interests offers a valuable case study that other rural communities might replicate," says Leon Martin, chairman of Bladen's Bloomin' Agri-Industrial. "Urban areas might also learn from this model as they address the challenge of maintaining an adequate inventory of affordable, ready-to-go industrial space amid rapidly changing economic realities." Founded in 2002, Bladen's Bloomin' Agri-Industrial has effected an innovative strategy for drawing new jobs, firms and industrial investment into Bladen County. In recent years, the large, rural community has witnessed steep job losses due to the migration of apparel and textile manufacturers to low-wage nations. To attract new businesses and sustainable employment opportunities, county economic development leaders established Bladen's Bloomin' as a way to raise private funds and philanthropic grants to boost the county's inventory of quality industrial space. The organization has thus far built or acquired 10 industrial properties, a portfolio currently valued at $7.3 million.

A panel of national experts reviewed nominations for the award in May, whittling nominations to a short list of four finalists that included Bladen's Bloomin' as well as programs in Hawaii, Virginia and Pennsylvania. From those, Bladen's Bloomin' emerged as the top choice of U.S. Department of Commerce officials. Additional information about the U.S. Department of Commerce's 2008 Economic Development Awards, visit www.eda.gov/NewsEvents/ExcellenceAwards.xml.