At the regular monthly meeting of the Anson Economic Development Corporation on Thursday, Vail Carter, business services coordinator for the Centralina Workforce Development Board, presented a “Prosperity for Anson” report, which identifies specific, targeted areas in which Anson can improve its economic development.
Carter explained that the program was part of a federally funded grant awarded last year. An economic development strategic assessment was performed by Avalanche Consulting, McCallum Sweeney Consulting and the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning for the entire 17-county region covered by the Centralina Workforce Development Board.
Carter shared the goals of Centralina’s economic development plan, which center on workforce and education, entrepreneurship and innovation, infrastructure, business climate and quality of life. He said often the No. 1 thing that businesses consider when choosing a location is quality of life. “Businesses have already done research before they even pick up the phone,” Carter said.
The report identified targeted sectors for growth in region. They were: automotive, logistics and global commerce, biomedical and health, financial services, energy, and aerospace and defense. Within those target industries, Carter said, “Surprisingly, we’re in pretty good shape.” He shared with the AEDC a “target competency matrix,” which illustrated which skills employees are competent in and which skills are needed for these targeted industries.
The one target skill competency that ran the gamut for all industries was information technology, specifically web applications. “If we’re going to work with training institutions and work with the demand,” Carter explained, “we’ll have to have curriculum to match these needs.”
Priorities for Anson County specifically were identified as: entrepreneurship and innovation, infrastructure, business climate, quality of life, and workforce and education. “The key piece here is that if you have a young person coming out of school, they need to be focusing these kids on the jobs that will be there tomorrow,” Carter said.
For Anson, target industries are: retail, health care, back office, professional services, transportation and logistics, and culture and entertainment.
Centralina is already working with several counties within its region to build upon the findings of the report. The complete report can be found at prosperityforgreaterCharlotte.com. AEDC chairman Chuck Horne said that he and Don Altieri had spoken about the report and felt it could be a great springboard for the AEDC to identify its own goals and areas of focus for the future.
Fred Sparger pointed out that many of the largest employers already in Anson County are “homegrown,” meaning the companies started here and most of its leadership is from here. “We need to figure out how to cultivate that,” he said.
“It’s much harder today to start a business,” Thomas Cureton said. “We didn’t have outside competition back then, like we do now.”
Dale Nelson, an Anson farmer, pointed out that agriculture could be an untapped resource for economic development. “We’ve got to teach these kids to get back to their community,” he said.
Horne said there’s also a possible trend of textiles returning to Anson County. Walmart recently announced that it will spend $5 billion over the next few years on U.S.-made products, he said. “There’s a trend for business to come back to this country,” he said.
County Manager Lawrence Gatewood said that GrowGreen, Inc., still plans to build a facility in Anson County, and plans are also in the works for a new hospital and agri-civic center, as well as a new emergency services center. “We’ve got to show an investment in our own county,” Gatewood said.
The AEDC will next meet at 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 21, to discuss goal-setting and planning for 2013.