A revitalized team approach taken by Columbus County economic development groups and the county commissioners paid dividends with the announcement today that a railroad crosstie recycling company, Singley and Associates, will move its operations to a site near the former Georgia-Pacific plant.
S&A CEO Marjorie Singley-Hall said the local team and business community “get it” when it comes to industrial recruitment.
Wooing S&A started in much the way most deals do: with a simple lead.
The Columbus County team followed up and soon hosted luncheons and dinners with S&A officials and local business people, elected officials and the county’s two economic development groups, the Columbus County Economic Development Commission, which works directly with the commissioners, and the Columbus Jobs Foundation, the volunteer, non-profit arm of economic development that’s supported by the business community and private citizens.
S&A hopes to capitalize on a much larger deal that could see “Project Black” operating a yet unnamed business at the former Georgia-Pacific plant, but S&A will be strong enough to do quite well on its own. The company hopes to recycle more than 1 million railroad ties a year.
Recruiting new industry is difficult. Virtually every county in the nation has some sort of economic development group. Competition is intense.
That’s why it’s crucial that government, private businesses, and volunteers from the Columbus Jobs Foundation, work together.
From the government side, the commissioners and municipal governments have been willing to provide important local incentives to both S&A, and, earlier this summer, RadixBay, a high-tech computer consulting company that located in the Tabor Industrial Park.
ark. Companies that are large enough can qualify for state grants and loans through North Carolina’s Southeast and the N.C. Department of Commerce.
The relationship-building and much of the heavy lifting on the front end is done by Economic Development Director Gary Lanier and the rejuvenated Columbus Jobs Foundation, which has doubled its membership this year, and the Columbus County EDC board.
Relationships matter, and the Columbus County team has taken it to the next level in building these.
It’s been a slow process, but Columbus County can now compete with just about any other rural county in the Southeast, especially with the resources now available through both industrial parks, the state port, the college and other partners. It should also be noted that without everyone’s participation in bringing rail back to Columbus County through R.J. Corman, it’s unlikely either the S&A or Project Black deals would be possible.
It’s easy to see that it takes a multi-faceted, longterm approach that involves infrastructure, incentive packages and old-fashioned networking to make deals happen.
Everyone involved in economic development here says they haven’t seen this level of activity and interest in a long time.
A large part of that is due to old fences being broken down or mended and a one-for-all attitude that will continue to show results.