Celebrate Retention Successes in Oconee County
By Richard K. Blackwell
In the world of economic development, business retention and expansion (BRE) programs are often overlooked, but is one of the most reliable ways of growing a community.
BRE is not as dynamic and dreamy as entrepreneurship, and certainly not as shiny and intoxicating as business recruitment successes. But BRE plays a critical role in promoting both entrepreneurship and job growth in a community because retaining and expanding existing businesses is a surer economic development bet than recruiting new ones from other towns.
The Oconee Economic Alliance has made BRE one of our main emphasis areas to create a more diverse economy for four strong reasons:
- It helps to defend our community against business recruitment programs from other counties and regions. There are many other Itron, Sandvik, Schneider Electric locations for instance that also would welcome new investments. By working on retention, we increase our chances to get new investment and keep the company happy here.
- Business intelligence. Relationships with existing businesses gives us real-time information on things such as businesses’ needs, so we can address them; potential expansions and contractions, while we still have time to affect the outcomes as well as present business recruitment opportunities as we understand their markets and/or customers deeper.
- Many start-ups begin as spin-offs from existing businesses and even when new start-ups choose to locate in our area, their plans for scaling up can be significantly impacted by our BRE efforts as we can help with introductions to potential business contacts.
- Word of mouth. Having existing businesses promote our community or demonstrate success is one of the best ways to recruit new companies to locate here.
Since 2012, the county’s economic development efforts have helped to usher in $211,700,000 in new capital investments and have announced 1,100 new jobs. Out of those numbers, BRE efforts accounted for $133,680,000 or 63.1 percent of the new investment into our county and out of jobs announced existing industries accounted for 462 or 42 percent.
Over the years, our team has learned hard lessons as we have lost industries as the global economy has changed and sometimes despite the BRE efforts, decisions do not always favor Oconee County. However, successes with recent expansions by the likes of ITT, BorgWarner, and ITECH South should be celebrated as the firms chose to invest here rather than another market or country. It is in a sense a great form of flattery and a testament for Oconee County as they choose to invest here due to our location, business climate, low tax base, proximity to customers and an excellent workforce.
By focusing on the businesses and companies that make Oconee unique through placing a priority on BRE efforts, we can continue to witness growth in our community and realize economic prosperity.
Richard K. Blackwell is the executive director of Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit www.InvestOconeeSC.com.