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Sweeney Praises LEDA Successes, Urges Pushing Forward

Lincoln Economic Development Association at their fall Membership event at Lincoln Country Club Thursday (Oct. 6th).

Sweeney is a seasoned and well respected site consultant, having worked for more than 25 years in the business. Based out of Greenville, South Carolina, McCallum Sweeney assists companies in identifying, evaluating, and selecting the optimal locations for their capital investments. Such projects cover a wide array
of related factors, including infrastructure,
transportation, labor and demographics, state and local taxes, and incentives.

The event was attended by representatives of Lincoln County government, the City of Lincolnton, the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, numerous state and federal elected officials’ staff members and educators.

The business of economic development was discussed, with emphasis on product development, organizational structure, support, and sales & marketing. Preparedness–having adequate, prepared sites and industrial
park–was emphasized. “Having property available does not equate to having a site,” Sweeney told the gather. “The property has to have adequate utilities, be under control and ready for purchase, retain the right connectivity not only to utilities but roads, and be in the right proximity to primary thoroughfares and an adequate and willing workforce. A community cannot rely on just a few sites for its future, you must maintain a portfolio of ready, available sites in order to compete.”

Sweeney noted the success the community has experienced with shell buildings including one just recently sold to Unox, which is moving its headquarters from Pennsylvania to Airlie Business Park. Sweeney remarked, “You’re two for two in shell building success, and that’s something to be proud of,” noting that two shell buildings have been built over the past two years, and both have sold successfully. He also noted, “It’s easy after that first year when the building has not sold to get a little anxious, but you have to be patient. The real value of the building is not just filling it, but also the marketing advantage that comes from having it.”

Proper training and workforce development were also discussed as key factors in locating and retaining industry. Lincoln County’s Advanced Manufacturing Education in all high schools was touted, as was the support from Gaston College. “Being prepared means showing improvement in education and continuing to invest in training resources,” Sweeney said. “Human resources offer a high dollar value, and often that’s the most significant site location factor.” Numerous recent major impact projects around the southeast were discussed where human capital was the driving factor, including several auto assembly plants.

As part of the presentation, Sweeney gave an overview of his professional opinion of Lincoln County and Lincolnton’s current site preparedness. “Lincoln County has learned first-hand the advantage of having a portfolio of ready sites. You created a competitive advantage against rival communities in and out of state with the Lincoln County Industrial Park.” It was noted that the park north of Lincolnton is almost full, and that Airlie Business Park in eastern Lincoln County, while just getting started, will eventually fill, and that a variety of adequate sites beyond what is currently available is crucial for long-term competitiveness.

“With two or three big wins you could actually be out of the recruitment game. Add to that a number of existing industry expansions needing the sites you have, and you’re out of the growth game. It’s time now to start planning the next big park.”

The recent residential growth and the pressure put on remaining properties that have the right characteristics for industrial locations was also noted, as once those properties are no longer available it can stifle future industrial and commercial development, which takes away the advantage of industry increasing the tax base and keeping taxes low for all citizens.