Category Archives: Alliance for Growth

Alliance for Growth Plan – Action and Progress

Seabrook Says: Mark Cramer and Joel Long, the GGDC’s new chairman, bring you right up to date on their work. This work is most important and deserves your staying abreast of it all. Now that you know, what will you do?

In the fall of 2014, the Greater Gaston Development Corporation (GGDC) enlisted over 100 community leaders to develop the Alliance for Growth plan. The goals of the plan were straightforward: (1) stimulate job growth, and (2) increase the County’s tax base.  A little over one year ago, the GGDC Board of Trustees prioritized the top action items in the plan’s seven strategic focus areas.  We are pleased to report on important progress on the plan’s highest priority items.

With the strong support of the business community, the Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln transportation planning organization included a new Catawba River Crossings project in regional road plans.  The Alliance for Growth’s highest priority, this project includes new bridges across the Catawba and South Fork Rivers and related roadways connecting to New Hope Road and across the South Fork and Catawba Rivers to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.  Now in Raleigh for “scoring” under DOT funding rules, it will require determined and sustained efforts to build support for and speed up the project.

The Alliance for Growth conducted a survey that indicated the perception of Gaston County by residents, nonresidents and developers was a problem. To address this challenge, the GGDC secured governmental and private commitments of over $900,000 to fund a 3-year Image and Branding Campaign for Gaston County.  The PR, marketing and branding firm of Ferebee-Lane & Co. will conduct the campaign.  Conceptual and creative work on the campaign is now underway and the campaign should start to roll-out in the second quarter of 2016.

The Gaston County Commission has approved two important initiatives by the Gaston County Economic Development Commission that support Alliance for Growth goals. The first is the creation of a $120,000 public-private site development fund that is being used to bring high-priority sites closer to being readily developable. The second is a 50,000 to 100,000 square feet spec building now under construction in Gaston Technology Park.  Available land and spec buildings are critical to attract new business.

Outstanding progress was made during 2015 on important Alliance for Growth workforce preparedness priorities by Gaston County Schools, Gaston College, the Gaston Regional Chamber and Gaston companies.  The Career and Technical Education Oversight Committee, which included 4 business representatives, made a number of important recommendations to improve career and technical education. Gaston College started the first N.C. Community College-registered apprenticeship program in North Carolina, Apprenticeship 321, and it also broke ground on its Center for Advanced Manufacturing.  The Educators in the Workplace program launched during the summer and 20 Gaston County school teachers and guidance counselors spent 5 days learning about 8 Gaston County companies.  As 2015 drew to a close, Gaston County was named as one of only seven counties to be recognized as an NCWorks Certified Work Ready Community.

2015 also saw critical progress on establishing a hybrid business incubator and Gigabit demonstration site to stimulate Gaston County entrepreneurship, innovation and job growth.  With Gaston County committing funding of $975,000, the leadership of the Gaston Gigabit Committee and the Alliance for Growth Entrepreneur/Small Business Committee are taking the necessary steps to get the hybrid business incubator up and running.

On October 13, the Global Vision Leaders Group met in Belmont.  This first meeting outside of Charlotte brought together over 120 business, government, educational and non-profit leaders from the two-state region for discussions on how to make the Charlotte region a global leader in trade and investment. In addition, the GGDC has taken the first steps to include Gaston County in a master planning effort for development surrounding the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, the greatest driver of growth in our region.

Much has been accomplished but much remains to be done. Continued progress on these and other priorities during 2016 and beyond will require even broader collaboration and deeper commitment.  Please join with the GGDC, the Alliance for Growth and our many partner organizations to move Gaston County forward.  Together, we can do this.

 

Joel Long                                                                             Mark Cramer

GGDC Chairman for 2016                                                   GGDC Executive Director

 

If You Aren’t Growing, You Are Dying

SEABROOK SAYS:  GGDC writes about two prime goals: growing jobs and growing the tax base. Every citizen can help everyday: talk up our positives, build our image, make our Gaston a better place.

The Alliance for Growth plan developed by over 100 Gaston County leaders late in 2014 embodies two fundamentally important goals for Gaston County: 1) grow jobs and 2) grow the tax base through greater investment. These goals are premised on the conviction that growth is a positive thing and that a failure to grow inevitably leads at best to mediocrity and at worst to a spiral downward. This condition is exemplified by a quote attributed to numerous authors: “if you aren’t growing, you are dying.” To examine the simple power of this statement, it is helpful to delve deeper into the Alliance for Growth plan and what it can mean to Gaston County’s future growth.

First, we need to acknowledge that growth does create challenges (more demand on public services such as schools, police, fire as well as environmental pressures) and because of that some would argue that growth is neither good nor desirable. We believe this is a very limited view of the potential of a community and its ability to grow in a positive and productive manner. It is also premised on the dubious assumption that somehow it is easier or better to manage a contracting budget, under-utilized school rooms and public safety layoffs, than expansions in those areas. It is said that people “vote with their feet,” and the exodus in America from the declining Rust Belt and Northeast to vibrant and growing New South cities like Charlotte and Austin indicates what most of us believe is better.

If you look at how Gaston County fits into the rapidly-growing Charlotte region, a couple of statistics depict the larger challenges we face. Of all of our peer counties immediately surrounding Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Gaston County has for some time had the slowest rate of population growth. Gaston County also has the highest personal property tax RATE of all those counties (except Lancaster, SC), even higher than Mecklenburg County. Gaston’s lower population growth reflects, among other things, slower job growth here and the misperception that Gaston County is not as desirable a place to live as are some other counties in the region. Lower property values and lower levels of capital investment drive higher tax RATES to generate levels of revenue adequate to provide public services.

The Alliance for Growth plan attacks these challenges head on while also building on Gaston County’s many strengths. As you might expect, many of these challenges and strengths are interrelated. You increase the tax base by increasing both capital investment in and the value of property in Gaston County. Stimulating demand for land through increasing development and higher, more productive use of land will increase the value of land and thus the tax base. This can be accomplished by expanding existing businesses and attracting new businesses, including new residential, commercial, industrial, retail and office users. By stimulating job growth, you provide new and better jobs for residents, and you attract newcomers to Gaston County. These more prosperous residents and newcomers, who work in new or expanded businesses, will drive demand for new retail, homes and professional services.  This is sometimes called a “virtuous circle,” and it certainly applies in Gaston County.

The Alliance for Growth plan envisions a new set of bridges across the Catawba and South Fork Rivers, opening up much better access to and from Charlotte’s I485 outer belt and the region’s job engine at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and its intermodal yard. The plan has strategies to improve workforce preparedness and career and technical education opportunities, to better match job skills and job opportunities. Likewise, the Alliance for Growth plan includes action steps to reduce the regulatory drag on new businesses and development, and to stimulate entrepreneurs and small businesses. There are also specific action plans for expanding business recruitment, providing more ready-to-develop sites and ready-to-occupy buildings. To capitalize on these many positive actions, we must also improve how a number of key audiences (from newcomers to developers to opinion makers) view Gaston County and our cities and towns. We are pleased to report that we have already made substantial progress on a number of these items, particularly on financing and implementing the plan’s recommendation to develop an Image and Branding campaign for Gaston County.

Growth will surely follow from this new-found focus, commitment and investment in Gaston County by her citizens. After all, the Alliance for Growth plan was developed by Gaston County leaders who have a deep love for this County. They desire to see all of their fellow citizens have the opportunity to experience the American Dream, be that a good, well-paying job, a nice home in a welcoming neighborhood, an inspiring education for their children, abundant recreational opportunities, or any one of a number of other things that make a community great. Working together we can achieve these things and grow to become the leader among counties in the Charlotte region.

Bob Clay, Chair, Greater Gaston Development Corporation                                                                                     Mark Cramer, Executive Director, Greater Gaston Development Corporation