ASHEBORO — With Toyota and Wolfspeed developing megasites in the area, local business leaders can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
That was the message on Feb. 7 when the Randolph County Economic Development Corporation held a kickoff campaign for a five-year effort called Randolph Rises: Alive with Opportunities.
Business, government and education officials from all over the county attended the event at Black Powder Smokehouse, 516 S. Fayetteville St., Asheboro. It was an opportunity for owners of the as-yet unopened restaurant to hold a training session, serving attendees prior to the expected March 1 opening.
But as delicious as the food was, the focus on everyone’s mind was building on recent business successes.
As Kevin Franklin, president of the RCEDC, told the assembly, “Randolph is rising, good things are happening and we’re on a lot of people’s radar. There’s a lot more we can do. We’re reliant on local governments (for revenues), but it’s difficult with just one funding source. There’s more we can do together.”
According to a brochure handed out, “Randolph Rises was developed to continue the momentum of growth, a bold new five-year economic initiative.”
The goal is to “assist existing business, grow a skilled workforce and develop new business opportunities.”
While the RCEDC is behind Randolph Rises, the campaign co-chairs are Bob Crumley, an attorney and businessman, and Dr. Robert Shackleford, retired president of Randolph Community College. Shannon Whaples is working with the RCEDC to coordinate efforts to raise $1.1 million in private business investment to advance the five-year strategic plan.
Addressing the audience, Franklin said, “Just over a decade ago, Asheboro was named a dying community by Forbes, and ’60 Minutes’ produced a segment which focused on challenges the community was facing. I’m happy to report that, based on hard work and success over the last 10 years, Asheboro and Randolph County are not dying, but thriving. Since 2013 when I joined the EDC, we have tracked project announcements totaling nearly $4.4 billion in investment and over 5,000 jobs. That doesn’t sound to me like a dying community!
“While we have seen tremendous opportunity, and more on the horizon, this is not the time to sit back and revel in our success,” Franklin continued. “There is much more to be done, and we have put a plan together to pursue some significant economic development goals here in Randolph County.
“Randolph Rises is an effort to partner with the private sector, become less reliant on public sector funding, and collectively move Randolph County forward. We invite the business community to join our efforts to ensure that Randolph County continues to grow and prosper.”
Those efforts combine preparing a diverse workforce, developing land for new industries and connecting with existing businesses to understand them and respond to their needs. Providing the workforce involves the RCEDC being a liaison between industry, educators and the public about manufacturing careers.
To attract and retain industries, Randolph Rises proposes to develop two industrial park sites and three general non-specific sites. Also, a priority is to work with the county and municipalities to identify viable sites and buildings.
As for existing businesses, the goal of Randolph Rises is to maintain connections with them to help them grow and become committed to the community. Surveys show that most new investments and job creation are represented by existing businesses.
During the five years of the project, the aim is to create 1,500 new jobs paying at or above the county average wage. Another goal is to foster $250 million in new capital investment by both existing and new companies.
Franklin said the target of the campaign is to raise $1.5 million during the five years. “We’re well on our way with $755,000,” he said. “We’re not going to fail in reaching the goal.”
Levels of giving are:
— Platinum, more than $75,000.
— Gold, $25,000-$75,000.
— Silver, $5,000-$25,000.
— Bronze, $2,500-$5,000.
Shackleford, noting that “it’s exciting to see how far we’ve come from where we’ve been,” talked about visiting the BMW automotive plant at Spartanburg, SC. He said he saw new communities, new shopping centers and new schools that have been built since the automaker arrived.
Speaking of Toyota and Wolfspeed coming to the region, Shackleford said, “It’s going to revolutionize our community. The future is bright. This county is a great place to live. With unprecedented economic opportunities, it’s a great time to be here.”
But moving forward, he said, will require funding. “We can’t get from here to there with limited money. This is for all of us. We’ll get there together.”
Crumley said, “When I came here 42 years ago, the local economy was textiles, furniture and finance.” Now most of the textile plants are gone and much of the furniture industry has gone overseas. And there is no longer a banking headquarters here.
“But we’re not dying,” Crumley said. “The EDC is reliant on government appropriations. Join us in remaking the economy of the county. Businesses will benefit by growth.”