Quality of Place

May 22, 2022 | Written by: sanford-user

Cars driving of a small town's road in the daytime. Credit: Ahmod Goins

By Jimmy Randolph, CEO

At its annual All Boards Meeting earlier this spring, SAGA’s leaders met with elected leaders and staff from across the community to discuss recent dramatic economic development successes which have yielded more than $1B in announced new capital investment and more than 1700 announced new well-paid jobs since 2018. The conversation quickly turned to a consideration of how best to maintain our positive momentum in the year ahead, and the discussion focused in three critical areas: product development, workforce development, and marketing.

First, we discussed the significant competitive advantage afforded by the ready sites and buildings at Central Carolina Enterprise Park, and the importance of developing additional sites and buildings to accommodate the speed-to-market demanded by capital-intensive modern manufacturing investments. With two new industrial parks currently under development and a third potentially on the way, we are optimistic about our ability to continue to attract interest in our sites from major manufacturing projects.

Secondly, we discussed the critical importance of workforce and training to the long-term sustainability of our existing businesses as well as recently recruited employers. Considering the large amounts of capital at risk in constructing a modern manufacturing facility, employers must be confident in their ability to recruit and retain talent, not just today, but well into the future, if their investment is to pay off in the long run. The workforce solution for Lee County businesses will clearly involve both a strong local talent pipeline and the ability to consistently fill in any gaps with talent recruited from elsewhere.

And finally, we discussed the importance of effective marketing in the highly competitive business of economic development recruiting. We must be good storytellers, clearly communicating our community’s advantages and assets, using the latest technology and media channels to catch the eye of companies and site consultants, and differentiating ourselves successfully from the competition.

But even if we do an excellent job in all these areas, more and more communities have learned from our success.  They are working very hard to develop sites and buildings that are just as attractive to potential new employers as ours. The communities we consistently compete against share our workforce development challenges, so that is not necessarily a significant differentiator for them or for us. So, in a case where two (or more) similar communities offer similar sites and buildings, similar workforce and training capabilities and a similar cost structure, what are the differentiators which could prompt a company to ultimately select one over the others?

The “wild card” in economic development recruiting could be characterized as “Quality of Place.” What are those elements of our community which make us unique? What is it about the “Places” called Sanford, Lee County and Broadway that make us better than the competition? In order to more effectively market ourselves and continue to outclass the competition, we must answer these questions candidly and thoroughly, and develop marketing tools and strategies which tell our story in the most effective way possible.

We’ll share more about this process in future editions, as well as taking a deeper dive into what makes our “Quality of Place” so unique and compelling. In the meantime, please reach out and share what you love most about living in Sanford, Broadway and Lee County, and we’ll incorporate your ideas into our planning process.