Director’s Message: Promising Signs
Despite the obvious frustrations felt as we watch the nation’s economy sputter back to life, there is evidence that Southeastern North Carolina is poised well for new job growth and investment. Much of the optimism can be traced to the farsightedness of the region’s cluster-based industrial development strategy.
Case in point: defense-related industries, whose production is linked to national security needs, not the cyclical swings of the private business world. With the rapid growth of mission and personnel at Fort Bragg, the region is witnessing the predictable arrival of jobs and investment from military suppliers and contractors. As the Southeast Commission continues working with other state and regional organizations in reaching out to defense and homeland security enterprises, we expect to see more announcements like TigerSwan and BoozAllen (see related article nearby).
Similarly, there has been no let-up in activity and interest surrounding the Southeast’s consumer foods and value-added agribusiness cluster, which continues to meet strong demand from domestic and worldwide buyers. Anchored by longtime industry legends such as Smithfield Foods, Campbell South and House of Raeford, the cluster welcomed promising recent arrivals Nice Blends and Piramide Foods.
Firms in these non-cyclical industries now account for the Lion’s Share of our project activity. But there are other clusters represented in our current project portfolio. As of mid-July, our project activity – which spans seven of our target clusters – represents the potential creation of 680 jobs and $171 million in total capital investment. While the uncertain economy has lengthened the timetable by which companies make facility decisions, it is well worth noting that in 2009-10, we hosted 33 visits by interested companies – twice the number that we had anticipated for the year.
By sticking closely to our target clusters and continuing to highlight the many unique assets that make our region competitive, we have positioned the Southeast for job creation success as the nation’s economy returns to health. Additionally, growth of our region’s existing industry base continues as evidenced by DuPont's recent $55 million dollar expansion of its Tedlar® polyvinyl fluoride film product used in the protective backsheets of photovoltaic solar panels. The evidence is there – we must stay focused on the strategy and remain confident in the quality of our execution.
Steve Yost, CEcD
N.C. Southeast Commission