LAURINBURG — Though Scotland County may not welcome a new industry every week, it is not so far behind the eight ball when it comes to economic development, state officials said on Wednesday.
John Loyack, vice-president of global business services for the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., informed a meeting of the Laurinburg-Scotland County Economic Development Forum that providing for the county’s existing industries is of equal importance to recruiting new ones.
“There are things that we need to do for existing business here in the state right now,” Loyack said. “It may not be a 500-job announcement. We need the five and 10 jobs, the incremental growth. It might be a nail salon, it might be a biotech startup, it might be a business that’s ready to expand.”
The EDP is a public-private partnership, contracting with the N.C. Department of Commerce and focusing on existing business expansion, expanding international trade, and small businesses innovation. Through Business Link N.C., the department provides free consultations, individualized licensing information, and other resources for small businesses and startups.
“There are some amazing businesses across the state that are running their business out of a personal checking account, and these are businesses that with the basic tools, the basic financial structure, might be able to hire five people in a year,” said Loyack.
The partnership also plays a role in helping North Carolina businesses break into international markets, sponsoring their attendance at international furniture, textile, security, and biotechnology shows to market themselves and the state.
“All that is a part of what President Obama introduced as a national export initiative back in 2010,” Loyack said. “We recognize that as the dollar starts to get a little stronger we need to keep pushing exports. We want to see businesses sell internationally.
“What businesses need to know is that 95 percent of the total world population is outside the U.S.”
Ryan Nance, the partnership’s regional director for the Sandhills prosperity zone — one of eight in the state — pointed out that Scotland County has already attracted an infusion of international investment.
“Take a look at the existing industry we have here; it’s pretty dang impressive,” he said. “Kordsa’s Turkish, and you run down the list, and even the recent expansions with FCC (Japan) and Butler (Australia). That is proof on the ground that international, big-time companies are here, are having success here, are deriving benefit from the technical expertise and training at the community college.”
The power of marketing the community cannot be overestimated, as Loyack described in his response to a query by former state Sen. Bill Purcell regarding the economic fortunes of neighboring South Carolina.
“I will give South Carolina credit; they are clearly very, very successful. They are good at sales… and it doesn’t stop with the sale. What they’re good at is they’re good at getting the message out. They’re good at letting people know internationally, for example, what South Carolina has and the benefits of doing business in South Carolina.”
As for Scotland County, the Committee of 100 established by the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce was applauded as an effective marketing tool. The committee comprises local businesses who pledge various amenities — from meals to apartments to car rentals — to businesses who locate in the county.
“You guys have established, maybe, a new best practice at the county level with what you’ve done with the Committee of 100,” Nance said. “That’s impressive. Some people might not think a year’s worth of gas means much to a corporate executive, but collectively the symbolism of that will go a long way.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.