Thanks to the efforts of the Union County Economic Development Board, Union County gained over $124 million in capital investments and 454 jobs in the last two years.
During Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Union County Council, Union County Economic Development Board (UCEDB) Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker provided the council with an update regarding development board activities.
Powell-Baker first addressed the board’s re-structuring after she joined the board in 2009.
She said members completed research locally, regionally and at the state level in 2009 to look at the structure of successful economic development organizations, as well as their activities and results. The UCEDB was restructured, and members come from each of the following local sectors:
- Higher Education
- School District
- Public and Private Industries
“People who have expertise in these areas are people we need on our board,” Powell-Baker said. “We look for people who are at a higher level within the organizations — people who are decision makers if possible.”
She said the applications are submitted and reviewed by the board, and the board makes recommendations to Union County Council for approval.
Powell-Baker said a mandatory two-day orientation is required of new board members to show them their role and how important it is for them to stay engaged with the UCEDB. A training course facilitated through the state called the South Carolina Economic Development Institute is also required. She said seven board members have completed the course and five have enrolled.
Powell-Baker then addressed UCEDB marketing initiatives.
“When I came on the board in 2009, before the restructuring, there weren’t any marketing initiatives in place,” she said.
Powell-Baker said the board implemented a new logo, combining pieces of logos for the City of Union, Union County and the Union County Chamber of Commerce.
Powell-Baker also showed the council and meeting attendees marketing collateral created by the board such as brochures and rack cards, which serve the primary function of giving prospects and visitors something to walk away with.
Powell-Baker then discussed an email campaign which ran from March-August in 2011 and was designed to target audiences that were never targeted in Union County. She said the campaign reached approximately 1,700 site consultants that work with companies to help them locate. The UCEDB brought in a marketing firm to partner with them to create compelling messages for the consultants. They also brought in eight people from local industry to help.
“Who better to help us than people who are in those industries,” Powell-Baker said.
Over the course of six months, each audience received three emails, each with a different message. Powell-Baker said the idea behind the campaign was to drive site consultants to the UCEDB website — www.uniondevelopmentboard.com — and as predicted, there was a huge uptake in website activity.
In 2009, the development board received 21 requests for information, meaning a site consultant or a company sent a request to the UCEDB for information about Union County. The requests mean there is a project and those sending requests are interested in Union County. Also in 2009, the board was asked to submit five proposals and received five visits to Union County.
In 2010, the board received 25 requests for information, was asked for seven proposals and received four visits to Union County.
In 2011, during and after the email campaign, the board received 37 requests for information, submitted five proposals and had five visits. As a result, three companies decided to come to Union, including ESAB Welding and Cutting, which promised a $19 million investment and 101 jobs.
So far this year, the UCEDB has had 20 requests for information, and although there have been no proposals requested, there have already been three visits. In March, Belk was recruited and promised $4.5 million in capital investments and 124 jobs. Also, Gonvarri Steel Services announced the location of their Gonvauto South Carolina plant at $50 million in investments, bringing 65 jobs.
In addition, there were expansions on the part of Gestamp, Allied Industries International, Dollar General and Santuc Precision.
Powell-Baker said the total capital investment for the last two years is just over $124 million, bringing a total of 454 jobs.
“We estimate revenue for the county to be almost $4.5 million over a five-year period,” she said.
Powell-Baker also mentioned new UCEDB creations, one of which is a mayors’ forum. Each quarter, the four mayors within Union County come together during a facilitated forum, during which they can share best practices, provide updates on projects and discuss challenges and solutions regarding day-to-day issues.
“This is our way of touching all four corners of the community,” Powell-Baker said. “We’re right here in the City of Union, but we feel like we need to be reaching out to other areas as well.”
Also in 2011, UCEDB members participated in a planning retreat with Union County Council, which was financed by the Upstate Alliance and the UCEDB. Several strategies came from the retreat. One of those was to work on a spec building.
“We have no more buildings in Union County to offer prospects,” Powell-Baker said. “We have a lot of good land, but we don’t have a spec building. Most companies are looking for a quick, easy place to land and get into.”
Powell-Baker also said the board had just begun a plant managers’ round table for all plant managers and CEOs to talk about workforce recruitment and retention. She said there has been one round table so far, and it was successful.
Powell-Baker then turned her focus to the future, mentioning that the UCEDB will look for new site opportunities and do lots of site-specific marketing similar to the targeted campaign facilitated in 2011.
She also said the UCEDB will work with auditor’s office to find a way to track these incentive packages that have been given to new industries.
“We have some models,” Powell-Baker said. “We are looking at ways to make sure companies are performing in the ways they’ve promised.”
She added that this will keep parties on both sides accountable.
For more information about the Union County Economic Development Board, visit www.uniondevelopmentboard.com.
New Board Members
UCEDB recommendations to fill four full-term (three years) positions and one at-large (two years) position were approved at Tuesday’s Union County Council meeting.
The four full-term seats were filled by Dr. Stephen Lowe and Kathy Jo Lancaster (from the higher education sector) and Marvin Joyner and Dale Wendell (from the industrial sector).
The at-large position was filled by Joe Hines, Jr. of Santuc Precision. Powell-Baker said the at-large position allows the UCEDB the opportunity to rotate people from various sectors.