Southern Innovation in the Carolinas
Creating Exciting New Workforce Development Strategies for the 21st Century
In the past few years, the Carolinas have become well known for their creative and innovative climate, as well as their low-cost business environment. North Carolina and South Carolina has spent the past two decades certifying shovel-ready sites and pioneering new incentives.
For example, Gov. Bev Perdue recently established the North Carolina Innovation Council to foster strategic investments and policies in the growing knowledge and innovation economy. The North Carolina Innovation Council is part of Gov. Perdue’s JobsNOW initiative. Through JobsNOW, the state will work aggressively to create jobs, train and retrain its workforce, and lay the foundation for a sustainable economic future.
“To continue growing jobs in North Carolina, we must make sure this state is poised to compete globally in the 21st century,” says Perdue. “Innovation is North Carolina’s launch pad to success in the global economy, and it’s a primary way for us to maintain and sharpen our competitive edge.”
North Carolina recently announced a partnership with Microsoft to provide free technology training to its citizens through the North Carolina Community College System, the Division of Workforce Development and the Employment Security Commission. The Elevate America courses range from basic- to intermediate-level technology literacy, and even provide a portion of the recipients with Microsoft Certification.
“This partnership will provide North Carolinians with another opportunity to retrain for today’s new economy,” Gov. Perdue says. “At a time when businesses are seeking a highly qualified, well trained workforce, Elevate America can give potential employees new skills to succeed.”
In South Carolina, the focus also is on creative workforce development strategies. The South Carolina Department of Commerce is committed to meeting a business’ specific workforce needs. The Department of Commerce’s Workforce Division and the readySC™ program, offered through the S.C. Technical College System, coordinate training needs at no cost for eligible new or expanding companies throughout the state. The readySC™ program works with the state’s 16 technical colleges to develop training curriculum tailored to meet a company’s workforce requirements. More than a quarter-million workers have been trained since the nationally recognized program’s inception.
“South Carolina is dedicated to establishing an environment where businesses can prosper,” says Gov. Mark Sanford. “The state has taken necessary steps to further enhance its business-friendly environment. Efforts like tort reform, workers’ comp reform, lowering taxes and expanding healthcare access for small businesses are just a few reasons why South Carolina has been ranked among the top five most business-friendly states for the past four years by the Pollina Corporation, ranking No. 5 in 2009.”
Now that great business reputation has begun to pay off in a big way for both states. South Carolina won Business Facilities’ 2009 Deal of the Year Award for N. Charleston’s selection as the location for Boeing’s second final assembly plant for the 787 Dreamliner commercial airplane.
“This sets into motion what we believe will be revolutionary and indeed generational changes to our state’s economy,” says Gov. Sanford. “Not only for the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in investment—in fact, the largest announcement in South Carolina history—but also for the way Boeing’s expansion will spur on an already growing aerospace hub in our state, this is extremely good news. Yet it’s also a challenge: a challenge to not rest on our laurels and instead redouble efforts to improve our state’s business climate; a challenge to use this momentum to push through tough economic headwinds; and a challenge to capitalize on this renewed cooperation between political leadership in Columbia and hard-working citizens across the state to make South Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
North Carolina’s been receiving accolades as well. In April, Raleigh, Charlotte and Durham were are named to Forbes’ list of “Best Places for Business and Careers” and just a few months before, Forbes named the state as the “5th Best State for Business.” Chief Executive magazine named it the “No. 2 Best State for Business” in a survey of CEOs in 2009.
“Business leaders know we are listening to them and working aggressively to meet their needs,” Perdue says. “Companies know that in North Carolina they will find top-quality talent, world-class infrastructure, a pro-business environment and premier education institutions. North Carolina is simply a great place to do business.”
WINSTON-SALEM: PROGRESSIVE SOUTHERN CITY
Winston-Salem, NC is a progressive southern city with a rich history in manufacturing and financial services. Although these industries continue to play a significant role in the local economy, the community has begun to shift to a technology-based hotspot for data centers, life sciences, design and other high tech ventures.
Take, for example, the Piedmont Triad Research Park (PTRP). Developed by Wake Forest University Health Sciences, the PTRP is a 200- acre urban research campus in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem and home to some of the most cutting-edge technology in the areas of regenerative medicine, nanotechnology, biotech and pharmaceutical discovery. The park is anchored by Targacept—a drug discovery company that was a spinoff of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company—and by Dr. Anthony Atala and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. At full build-out, PTRP will be the largest urban research park in the U. S.
For a look at some of the world-class technology that is taking place, visit the Winston-Salem Business video library on upload the 60 Minutes story on Dr. Atala’s work at www.wsbusinessinc.com.
People in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have always worked hard, but they know how to play hard too. Residents and visitors alike have numerous social opportunities in the “City of Arts & Innovation.”
The Winston-Salem Dash (Single-A, Chicago White Sox affiliate) played its first game on April 13 at the new BB&T Ballpark in downtown Winston-Salem. The new stadium is one of many examples of an impressive urban renaissance taking place. The community has long placed an emphasis on cultural activities. Visit on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday from May through August and you are guaranteed to find people outside enjoying the free music festivals that run all summer long every weekend.
Browse Winston-Salem Business Inc.’s newly remodeled Web site at www.wsbusinessinc.com and find community data, buildings, available sites and other pertinent information to help aid in the search for a new business location. Also, check back frequently for the new blog site and follow Winston-Salem on Twitter at twitter.com/wsbusinessinc. For a customized package of information please call (336) 723-8955.
SANTEE COOPER: SUPPORTING SC ECONOMY THROUGH COOPERATIVE PARTNERSHIPS
On April 7, 1934, Gov. Ibra C. Blackwood signed into law an act that created the S.C. Public Service Authority, more commonly known as Santee Cooper. It was the culmination of more than 150 years worth of efforts to tap the Santee and Cooper Rivers for economic development. Never in their wildest dreams could the 1770 committee of the colonial Commons House of Assembly that first proposed developing the two rivers have predicted their inland-navigation project would evolve into South Carolina’s largest power producer and one of the largest public-power utilities in the United States.
Provisions in the enabling legislature proclaim Santee Cooper was created by South Carolina “for the benefit of all the people of the state, for the improvement of their health and welfare and material prosperity.”
Seventy-five years later, these words are at the very heart of Santee Cooper’s mission to be the state’s leading resource for improving the quality of life for the people of South Carolina. To help fulfill this mission, Santee Cooper is committed to being the lowest-cost producer and distributor of reliable energy and water, as well as a leader in economic development.
As soon as Santee Cooper produced its first electricity in 1942, it became a catalyst for economic development throughout South Carolina, thanks largely to its partnership with the electric cooperatives. Throughout their shared history, Santee Cooper and the cooperatives have worked in tandem to bring businesses large and small to the state, including industries like International Paper, Alcoa Inc., Nucor Steel, AVX, Georgia-Pacific, Builders FirstSource, BP Amoco, American Gypsum, Starbucks and Google.
In September 1988, representatives of Santee Cooper and the electric cooperatives jointly created the Palmetto Economic Development Corporation, known today as the South Carolina Power Team. In the 20 years since, the Power Team has been part of 580 industrial relocation or expansion projects, resulting in $8.1 billion in capital investments, 43,500 new jobs, and $1.3 billion in annual payrolls.
When the Power Team was created, there was an implicit mandate to support the efforts of South Carolina’s local and regional economic developers, as well as the S.C. Department of Commerce. Among the Power Team’s efforts in this arena is its Economic Development Review, in which electric cooperative and economic development communities meet annually to create the relationships that power more effective economic development efforts. The Power Team also has funded statewide work force studies that address labor availability issues.
In 2006, the Power Team introduced three new initiatives to further support economic development. It awards scholarships for economic development professionals to take accredited courses and also assists in the development of strategic marketing plans for county and regional economic development corporations. Furthermore, the Power Team works to certify industrial sites in all 46 counties. Through 2008, the Power Team has awarded 36 scholarships, completed or begun 23 strategic plans, and certified 11 sites. For more information please contact George Haygood, CEcD at [email protected] or visit www.scprimesite.com.
NC PUBLIC POWER: LEADING THE WAY TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY
As business leaders around the world continue to scan the daily headlines for encouraging economic news, they are finding good news in North Carolina.
“We’ve seen a measurable uptick in interest and activity,” said Brenda Daniels, economic development manager for ElectriCities, a not-for-profit government service organization based in Raleigh representing North Carolina cities and towns that own electric distribution systems.
Daniels isn’t overly surprised to find her organization’s membership playing the role of leading economic indicator. “Companies that come out of the gate fastest and strongest after a recession are typically those that are most focused on efficiency and cost control,” she said. “Not coincidentally, efficiency and cost control are two areas in which we excel.”
Daniels explained that one of ElectriCities’ many roles is to represent member communities to expanding and relocating companies. Her staff maintains comprehensive databases for all 50+ public power municipalities in North Carolina.
As easily as flipping a switch, a site selection professional can order detailed reports on dozens of North Carolina sites, from mountains to coast. Within 48 hours of a request, ElectriCities will send profiles of locations that precisely match the company’s specifications.
Daniels emphasized that the process is “fast, efficient, and entirely confidential.” Using ElectriCities as an introduction to North Carolina, site search managers have a turnkey information source. “They find all the information they need in one place.” ElectriCities’ staff produces a full profile that details infrastructure, site availability (including site and building photos), labor and even lifestyle data such as schools, hospitals and golf courses.
ElectriCities remains a partner through the entire process, helping companies with utility related issues, arranging site visits, and facilitating contact with local, county and state officials.
There’s another key factor that’s making the phones ring at ElectriCities: the availability, reliability and affordability of North Carolina public power.
“It’s no coincidence that some of the state’s most dynamic growth has occurred in our public power communities,” said Daniels. “Advanced manufacturing, food processing, metal-working, plastics—any power-intensive industry is going to find significant advantages here.”
Companies based in ElectriCities member communities recognize the cost efficiencies and superior customer service public power provides. Municipal utilities don’t have to pay dividends to shareholders, and those savings can be passed on to the utilities’ customers. Both ElectriCities and the member utilities work closely with companies to help them manage their power usage and keep costs down.
Businesses are also happy to have the personal touch public power provides. “Customers always tell us, we’d much rather work with you. We can call somebody, we can get an answer,” said Larry Cranford, electric department director in Statesville, an ElectriCities member community. “That doesn’t happen with other power providers.”
Daniels believes the optimism she sees is also driven by North Carolina itself, which is renowned for its pro-business climate, excellent job training programs, and low labor costs. “People just expect North Carolina to bounce back faster and stronger than other places.”
She cited the example of Providencia, a Brazilian-based non-woven fabrics manufacturer that recently announced construction of its first U.S. facility in Statesville. “Their decision to move ahead at this point in time shows a lot of confidence in the resilience of North Carolina and our public power communities.”
To learn more, e-mail Brenda Daniels at [email protected] or visit www.electricities.com.
SOUTH CAROLINA: A CUT ABOVE THE REST
All certified sites are not created equal. The definition of a certified site can vary from state to state, and sometimes even from county to county.
In South Carolina, the designation “certified site” means the industrial property has been thoroughly analyzed and documented by a third party engineering firm to determine acreage, archeology, availability, boundaries, culture, endangered species, environmental and geotechnical issues, land use, ownership, topography, transportation, utilities and wetland issues. A certified site is considered to be “shovel ready” for acquisition and development.
Each certified site in SC must:
• Be a minimum of 50 acres
• Meet specific criteria impacting site development costs
• Have municipal water and sewer on site or in close proximity to be extended quickly to the site
The South Carolina Power Team has made a commitment to develop certified sites statewide. Comprised of Santee Cooper, the state’s electric generating and water utility, and 20 electricity distribution cooperatives, the South Carolina Power Team is the state’s largest supplier of electric power to industry and the only statewide power system. The Power Team not only provides electric power to existing and new companies, but as a full-service economic development organization it supports South Carolina’s efforts to recruit companies to the state.
“When the state of South Carolina began a certified sites program, we decided to become an active participant,” says Fred Gassaway, executive VP for marketing with the Power Team.
Today, the state currently has 53 certified sites in 31 counties, with another 18 either in the process of certification or recertification. The South Carolina Power Team is committed to certifying additional sites, so that each of the state’s 46 counties has at least one. Since 2007, the SC Power Team has invested more than $330,000 to create certified sites in the service area of the state’s 20 electric cooperatives, with an additional $200,000 allocated in 2009. The average cost for certifying a site is about $75,000. A second level of site certification is being devoted to the creation of several “mega-sites” in the SC Power Team’s service area.
In addition to the standard South Carolina site certification criteria, mega-sites:
• Consist of 1,200 acres or more
• Have access to rail and interstate highways
• Have significant water and wastewater capabilities
• Have access to electric power transmission and also to natural gas facilities
When an industry chooses a certified site in South Carolina, there are no surprises. These certified sites meet the highest standards, allowing industries to begin development immediately. So when comparing sites around the Southeast, remember—all certified sites are not created equal.