Eleven site selection consultants and commercial real estate brokers joined county, regional and state leaders for a familiarization tour of the I-73/74 Micro Region earlier this month. The three-day “FAM tour,” which highlighted Anson, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond and Scotland counties, followed closely on the heels of a similar event organized last fall in the Greater Wilmington micro region.
“Fam tours let site selection consultants get up-close-and-personal with our communities and the regional assets that connect companies to their location strategies,” says Steve Yost, president of The Southeastern Partnership. Consultants themselves recommend such regionally oriented FAM tours as an efficient, effective way to showcase economic amenities.
“The centerpiece of the FAM Tour was the candid, face-to-face meetings we organized with local industry representatives,” says Chuck Horne, chairman of the Anson Economic Development Corporation. Plant managers, business owners and human resource professionals shared with consultants their own objective view of how the region stands apart from competing business destinations.
Ten existing industry leaders spanning a cross-section of sectors discussed their experiences in the micro-region. “Collectively, these managers lead companies that employ more than 2,000 people here,” says Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress.
Local economic developers each presented to visiting consultants, offering insight into sites and parks, infrastructure and programs. The regional approach provides a unique opportunity for the rural counties to build relationships with top business influencers. “It is only by joining together that we could organize this level of outreach,” said Martie Butler, economic developer for Richmond County. Consultants also met with elected officials and “walked” available sites, she adds. “That part was priceless,” Butler says.
Among the sites reviewed by consultants was the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Industrial Park, one of the region’s largest industrial properties. “The FAM tour was a highly beneficial event,” says Scotland County Manager Kevin Patterson.
“The event was a collaborative effort, fully supported by our counties and allied partners, and this demonstrated to the consultants how well our area supports companies,” says Amanda Whitaker, Executive Director of the Montgomery County Economic Development Commission. Southeast Region allies participated in the events and helped financially with sponsorships. They included utilities, banks, railroads, business services firms and healthcare providers. The FAM tour included dinner and train trip courtesy of Aberdeen Carolina Western Railway.
Commerce Secretary John Skvarla and Chris Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, shared statewide perspectives and responded to questions and comments from consultants. “These individuals, as well as their peers in the location advisory industry, make up a very important audience for state, regional and local marketing efforts, and they represent a primary source for business recruitment deals that we compete for,” Chung says. “I applaud The Southeastern Partnership and its member counties for hosting this group, so that we can all showcase some of the many reasons why North Carolina is an optimal place to do business.”
A public-private partnership headquartered in Elizabethtown, N.C., The Southeastern Partnership collaborates with county governments in seeking to “provide strong economic development leadership in southeastern North Carolina through innovative marketing and collaborative regional initiatives that will support the creation of new jobs, generate capital investment, and secure new business locations.” Member counties include Anson, Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Hoke, Montgomery, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland and Wayne.