2019 a busy year for Economic Development Commission

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The past year proved to be big for the Person County Economic Development Commission.

Hot on the heels of Polywood’s addition of a Person County location, the EDC was faced with a minor industrial inventory problem.

The addition of Polywood and Open Books Extracts forced a special meeting of the EDC in March to discuss the options available to them including building more shell buildings and spec buildings, but no decision was made at the meeting.

Throughout the year, groups visited the new Person County Mega Park including the 2019 class of Leadership North Carolina who works with current and emerging leaders on in the areas of economic development, education, environment, government and health and human services.

In April, EDC and GKN celebrated the manufacturer’s 25th year in the county.

In May, Sherry Wilborn was named economic development director after about seven months as the EDC’s interim director. The EDC also hired Brandy Lynch to serve as the senior administrative support specialist in August, meaning both vacant positions with the EDC were filled.

EDC also sponsored May’s Industrial Relations Committee luncheon that saw Bobby Walston, NCDOT Director of Aviation, updated officials on the economic output of the stat’s airports - around $52 billion in a year. Locally, the Person County Airport reportedly had an annual economic impact of $69.6 million which is expected to increase with the already-approved projects of runway expansion and corporate hangar construction.

The Person County Mega Park hit a milestone in the early summer as construction of a water line that will bring 2.5 million gallons per day to the park began thanks to a $1.6 million state grant.

In June, the EDC hosted an Opportunity Zones workshop with guest presenter, Jeanne Milliken Bonds, then with the Federal Reserve Bank of Virginia, to update guests on the growth in Person County and opportunities in our vast opportunity zones which encompass both recreational lakes, the Person County Mega Park, and abundant infrastructure.

Three Next Generation Sector Partnerships were announced by governor Roy Cooper in June with Person County as the lead applicant on behalf of the Northern Piedmont. The region will receive support in the advanced manufacturing industry.

Congressman Mark Walker received an update on the Mega Park in August from the EDC and representatives from Timmons Group, a Richmond, Va.-based civil engineering company. The EDC also adopted a three-year strategic plan which will emphasize workforce and education, product development, marketing and recruitment, business support and securing funding sources for economic development.

In September, the three-way partnership between the EDC, Person County Schools, and Piedmont Community College on the 6-14 Workforce Pipeline Plan began which will see focus on sustaining the long-term viability of the local workforce in the areas of advanced manufacturing, technology, entrepreneurship, agriculture and trades.

Wilborn recapped the year by commenting on the long and short-term focuses of the EDC.

“It’s often said that economic development is a marathon and not a sprint,” Wilborn said. “Really, it’s both. The Person County Economic Development Commission is addressing long-term needs through a strategic plan that focuses on an inventory of adequate buildings and sites, a skilled workforce, and infrastructure improvements. The sprint involves staying abreast of existing industry, labor force, and market needs and trends and striving to be forward-thinking and ever-present in a competitive, global market.”

In early 2020, Wilborn said the EDC will look at asset marketing, including through a logo design and website update that should be complete by March, product development, including exploration of a shell building, industry support, especially through the launch of the advanced manufacturing sector partnership, a regional summit done in conjunction with the Kerr Tar Council of Governments in February and community engagement through Good Morning Coffee Hour Sponsorship in March.

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