Friday, July 10, 2009

Leaders learn steps to improve area development

DOBSON — Surry County and economic development leaders came away with a better sense of what needs to be done in order to recruit new industries to the area Tuesday during a Building Readiness Program sponsored by Duke Energy.

Officials with InSite Consulting Group, a national site consulting firm, explained how the recruitment process works and how Surry County can improve the way it markets itself to potential industries.

“Site selection is like a funnel. It’s like a tornado for crying out loud. There are four phases to this insanity,” said Tonya Crist of InSite.

She explained that Phase I includes regional identification. She said that Web sites are now intensely important to industry recruitment.

“Surry County has a fantastic Web site. My hat’s off to you in that regard,” Crist said.

She said Phase I also includes a “product” which is made up of sites, buildings, industrial areas and parks. Labor force also greatly influences what types of industries will look at an area, she said.

“We need product and people. You have to ask yourself if you have both,” Crist said.

Phase II and III that is conducted by a site consulting firm includes a Request for Information process and community visits.

“Some of the ‘must haves’ are a dedicated staff who can supply research and support, effective and fast communication of assets, professional, astute project management. In Surry County, you are very professional. Your team did an outstanding job,” Crist said.

Phase IV includes incentives, real estate and quality of life issues.The study included research on the old Perry Manufacturing building on Woltz Street in Mount Airy. The study also identified 30 empty buildings around Surry County which are available for manufacturing.

One of the owners of the former Perry Manufacturing building, David McCray, was on hand for the event.

Rob Cornwell, who did the presentation in tandem with Crist, pointed out some of the things that could be changed about the site to make it more appealing. He suggested improving the signage of the area, work on the surrounding landscaping and removing the existing racks. He said marketing the building as a 121,000-square-foot property instead of the 191,000-square feet that the department of commerce has listed would be an improvement as well. He explained that 70,000-square feet of the property is being used for storage and is not available for manufacturing space.

When asked “What is one of the fatal flaws of Surry County?” by a member of the crowd, Cornwell pointed out that the 14-foot ceilings at many area plants is a concern. He said ideally, ceiling heights would be above 30 feet, although not many buildings in the Triad area boast those heights.

One of the positives about Mount Airy that Cornwell pointed out is the excess 5.5 million gallons of water and sewer capacity.

Overall, Crist and Cornwell said the people working in the areas of economic development in Surry County are doing an outstanding job.

“The Surry County team showed great enthusiasm for their community from the moment we arrived,” Crist said. “It is critical that the EDP people are excited about what they do. People’s passion is captivating. This crowd did an amazing job. We really enjoyed the community tour.”

Ted Ashby, chairman of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, Inc., thanked everyone for attending the Tuesday afternoon event.

“We are all in the same boat heading in the same direction,” said Ashby.

Contact Mondee Tilley at or at 719-1930.

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