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