DOBSON — Hundreds of local leaders flocked to Surry Community College to hear a presentation from the state’s business secretary.
N.C. Secretary of Commerce John E. Skvarla III and members of his staff discussed how his department is willing to partner with local governments in economic development.
Assistant Secretaries Will Collins and Patricia Mitchell discussed exactly what companies look for when deciding where to do business.
Highway accessibility, low construction costs, the availability of property and the skill level of the workforce are some of the largest factors in a business’s determination of where it will operate, according to Collins.
“What are you doing to make these available?” asked Collins.
Collins, who runs the workforce solutions segment of Commerce, and others touted North Carolina’s network of community colleges as the driving force behind equipping North Carolina residents to meet the needs of a company which might locate in the area.
Mitchell, who is in charge of rural economic development, showed the room examples of her department’s ability to aide local governments and businesses.
She pointed to projects which used building reuse monies, dollars available for infrastructure improvements such as sewer projects, loans to build shell buildings and dollars available through the Main Street program.
About $86 million in rural grants were handed out last year, according to Mitchell.
Collins said his portion of the department adds the human capital factor to the equation.
“We connect North Carolina talent to North Carolina jobs,” explained Collins.
Collins told the folks gathered at the Shelton-Badgett Center for Viticulture and Enology there are 82 N.C. Works career centers throughout the state. Commerce also partners with numerous local entities and nonprofit organizations to reach those looking for employment.
“Your investment in human capital is the most intelligent investment you’ll make,” remarked Collins.
He touted programs such as N.C. Works online job bank, programs for hiring veterans and the state’s apprenticeship program, which he said his own son is utilizing.
Skvarla ended the program with remarks regarding making the state a more friendly atmosphere.
“There are many resources available, but there was no alignment of any of the support programs,” said Skvarla.
The secretary said his department is the place to start, with folks available to field questions from companies, entrepreneurs and local leaders.
North Carolina has some important attributes which make it a good place to do business, according to Skvarla.
He said the state had an average cost of living, some of the best all-around weather in the country, an educated workforce and the second-lowest union participation in the nation.
Skvarla also said others are hard at work to bring businesses to North Carolina and help existing businesses thrive.
“Incentive programs are awarded through Commerce, but there’s only one salesman in North Carolina,” said Skvarla. “That’s Gov. Pat McCrory.”
Skvarla said McCrory’s days and evenings are often filled with discussions with business owners and others looking to invest in North Carolina.
Andy is a staff writer and can be reached at 415-4698.