Jesse, I listened to this podcast - super interesting!! I know that the draw for more companies to come to the area is key, but are there also focuses on how to increase business for companies that are already in the area? Also, do you all have the population to support significant industrial investments, from a workforce perspective, or is that a barrier -I know that new business would need to compete with all the chemical companies, do you feel that is a deterrent for new business, as they believe the "good workers" are taken?
I am also curious if all the businesses are fully aware of all the varying govt. programs/bid opportunities that could be available for them. I know that for the company I work for, we are in a rural, hub zone area, and we are registered as a small business. This allows us to win govt. bids and solicitations. I could see value in that as somewhat of the "low hanging fruit" approach to helping existing business grow their revenue, which can result in more jobs, new hire needs, etc. Then a simultaneous effort in drawing in new business.
The work you do is truly helping people and it is inspiring. Thank you for sharing this podcast, I really enjoyed it. The socio-economic and logistical struggles that plague Appalachia are not small, but through hard work from men like you, they clearly can be eased.
Great stuff buddy.
I didn't forget about ya @at1010
, just wanted to respond when I could fully articulate a response. And to that point...
I know that the draw for more companies to come to the area is key, but are there also focuses on how to increase business for companies that are already in the area?
A key metric for folks in my position, especially in Ohio where our state group (JobsOhio) prioritizes this, are BRE visits or Business Retention and Expansion visits. These are 1-on-1 conversations with business leaders regarding their current situations and needs. For me, this usually takes the shape of workforce and/or market development since those are my areas of expertise. When it comes to funding, there is a plethora of programs to support a variety of needs for existing businesses from capital improvements, market access, and workforce development. My professional opinion is that we should spend 80% of our time helping existing businesses and 20% attracting new ones. I’m a little skewed in that breakdown at this point due to our efforts to secure a 165-acre industrial park. I have two potential tenants already, so I’ve spent the vast majority of my time this year trying to close those deals.
Also, do you all have the population to support significant industrial investments, from a workforce perspective, or is that a barrier? I know that new business would need to compete with all the chemical companies, do you feel that is a deterrent for new business, as they believe the "good workers" are taken?
Like most rural areas, we would struggle to support a 500-employee project. That said, we lose those projects before they ever get to the workforce component due to a lack of sites and infrastructure. The two projects I mentioned earlier require 130, and 18, employees respectfully. The occupational breakdowns of both projects lend themselves to our regional strengths when it comes to workforce skills and availability. And because they are financed by outside money, they are among the highest paying jobs in those particular job categories, which greatly enhances their ability to attract a qualified workforce. The bigger deterrent for new businesses is our collective inability to pass a drug test. It’s well known that this is a huge issue in Appalachia, and I get asked about it a lot.
I am also curious if all the businesses are fully aware of all the varying govt. programs/bid opportunities that could be available for them.
Some do, most don’t. And honestly, there’s a lot out there that I don’t know about and that’s kind of what I’m paid to do. Thankfully, I have a great network in the state and federal funding arenas, so I know who to call when I need to assess the landscape. Part of conducting a BRE visit is to find the need, then pair that to the funding source that can help with said need. A few of our local businesses have top-shelf HR/talent people who serve on our regional Workforce Investment Board with me and they’re well ahead of the game when it comes to this stuff because of that involvement in the WIB.
This job is not for the faint of heart, but I am loving it so far. The great thing about economic development is that it’s such a broad umbrella, you can truly make this job whatever you want it to be. My predecessor held a Masters in Public Administration and was very much involved in local planning and governmental administration. I’m not a planner, nor am I qualified to meddle in the administration of governmental services. I’m a doer and my job is to get shit done, so our organization has made a drastic shift from planning and .gov admin to being one that executes/facilitates real estate transactions, infrastructure, and construction projects. That’s my background and when you’re a 2-person organization, you lean into the strengths of your leader. My decade in the oilfield as a landman negotiating 300+ deals and assisting with the construction of 50+ miles of pipeline and dozens of other ancillary infrastructure projects set me up perfectly for this job. Whoever follows me might be better at community development and grant writing, so we’ll undergo another transformation. But until then, we’ll be known for taking projects from concept to reality cause that’s what I enjoy doing!