While addressing a room full of community members, economic development professor Jonathan Morgan was optimistic about the future of North Carolina and Sampson County. But he believes it’s going to take a lot of innovation as well.
“When you think about it, in many respects, economic development in North Carolina is at a crossroads,” Morgan said while discussing trends in the state. “Overall the last couple of decades, North Carolina has had its share of successes in economic development, particularly in the area of industrial recruiting.”
The Clinton 100 Committee held its 2016 Annual Membership Meeting Wednesday night, with Morgan as the keynote speaker. He’s an associate professor of Public Administration and Government at the UNC School of Government, was the keynote speaker for the event. Morgan currently serves as course director for the annual Basic Economic Development Course.
After speaking about industrial recruiting, Morgan said things are changing and how professionals must rethink what they’re doing.
“At the state level, there has been this rethinking of academic development and how we’re approaching it,” Morgan said before mentioning shifts involving incentives and grant programs.
Some of his other topics involving economics include the growing divide between rural and urban areas and the recession which occurred several years ago.
“Here we are in 2016 and it’s not entirely clear if we’re in full recovery mode,” Morgan said.
Morgan rhetorically asked several questions centered around how Sampson County will adapt the uncertainty and will build an economic road map. As officials go through the process, he encouraged them to go through the “Three P’s of economic development. The first, “People” centered around the quality of workforce which are needed by firms and industries to drive growth and the second was “Place.”
“It definitely involves creating a distinctive sense of identity about this place,” Morgan said specific brands for the communities. “Place making as an economic strategy is about a whole lot more than just coming up with a catchy slogan.”
He continued and said place making is about taking actions to turn slogans into a concrete reality.
“How do you activate that strategy of making Clinton ‘The Perfect Place to Call Home,’” Morgan said. “How do you make investments locally to bring investments into fruition.”
Morgan called the third, “Prosperity,” the bread and butter of economic development when it came to coming up with a concrete strategy.
“I hope that the work with our team from UNC will be a solid step in that direction or getting you on that path to figuring out the ultimate road map to economic development efforts,” Morgan said.
In addition to a question and comment session with Morgan, attendees received a brief update about NCGrowth from Clinton City Manager Shawn Purvis and Ellis Johnson. The organization’s mission is to help its clients create jobs to help communities create opportunities in rural areas.
John Swope, executive director of the Sampson County Economic Development Commission, made a special presentation about the organization and new companies coming to the area. The listed projects in development included Enviva Pellets Sampson, Prestage, Brooks Brothers, NOVI Energy and Rheinfelden Americas. Projects pending development included Kansas City Sausage and Chemtex.
“To make these projects happen, a lot of people had to work together and we had to have a lot of partners in these projects,” Swope said.
He said a lot of assistance was also provided by the state of North Carolina through infrastructure and incentive grants which totaled millions.
“I’m pleased with the results that we and our partners across the board, rather it be Sampson County, the state or national have had in the results that we talked about,” Swope said about collaborating with other agencies such as Clinton 100. “As I mentioned before economic development is not a one person effort. I’m deeply appreciative of the assistance that we get get.”
According to projections, the mentioned companies could produce 463 jobs with a average annual salary of $36,971, which is about 17 percent above the average wage in Sampson County. The net new taxable investment is $419.46 million, and is estimated to be a 10 percent increase in Sampson County’s tax base. The tax revenue after grant back incentives are provided is $14.6 million.
“Our job is two things — create jobs and create tax base,” Swope said. “If we were in a wealthy county somewhere, tax base wouldn’t be so important.”
Swope is looking forward to working with Clinton 100 in the future.
The event at the Coharie Country Club featured many business professionals and Sampson County officials. Its purpose was to provide attendees about economic development activities in the community. Back in the 1960s, the original intent of the organization was to get 100 people to donate $100 for a five year period. During that time period, it was a success with 132 people. Today, the organization has about 70 members.
Brooks Barwick, president of the 100 Committee, would like to see more people involved and top 100 for next year’s annual meeting.
“This is a good financial investment and a good thing for us and the City of Clinton and Sampson County,” Barwick said. “I think if we reach out to more people, we’ll find that they want to be involved with us.”
(Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent)
(Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent)
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.