Part 1 of letter to Robeson County commissioners (sent January 6, 2014):
The purpose of this document is to briefly recap COMtech’s 2013 activities and provide an outlook for the year ahead. This is not intended to be an exhaustive review nor comprehensive set of goals and strategies – as the bulk of that information can be found on our new website (comtechbusinesspark.org). This is however, a snap shot of where we have recently been, and where we’re headed. We want to keep you and the citizens of our county informed.
Prior to my arrival in April, Mr. Tony Normand and Chairman Ronnie E. Hunt had made significant progress restoring confidence and credibility – primarily through a revamped management and dues system that was agreed upon by the newly formed COMtech Landowners Association. Costs were reduced, services were simplified, and to this day, 21 of the 22 landowners are onboard.
Ensuring that our existing businesses receive the support and level of service they deserve was priority #1 during that transition period. Since then, additional steps have been taken to streamline park operations, improve transparency, and most recently, crafting the COMtech Incentive Plan to reward landowners that actively assist with recruiting new business to the park (see attachment).
In terms of attracting new business, historically, COMtech has experienced first-hand the power in positive landowner action and conversely, the negative effects that come from internal strife. It has been a while since our last new business, so we need to work harder and smarter than ever before. Listed below are recruiting referral/lead sources that our office has tracked since April (9 months):
23 = self-generated leads (i.e. COMtech initiated leads)
4 = external leads (e.g. realtors, developers, etc.)
2 = Landowner leads
1 = Hollingsworth lead
1 = Website lead
1 = Walk-in
32 = total new business leads
Interest from new business has recently picked up, but these low numbers reflect the obvious need for greater quantity and better quality leads to achieve our mission. Approximately 70% of these leads are still active, and while the new Incentive Plan should help, it’s only one of several actions we’ve taken to bolster recruiting this past year.
Improving our visibility among developers and marketers has also been a work in progress. We’ve actively engaged our representatives in NC Commerce, the Southeast Commission, and locally, because in some cases, we found that COMtech was not included in their marketing materials or lists of certified sites.
COMtech and Robeson County contracted with a private industrial recruiter by the name of Hollingsworth back in March 2012. Now in the second year of a three year contract, we stay in frequent contact with their NC developer, providing him with updated material to enhance their marketing for the optioned land they have in COMtech. With only one lead this past year, we are hoping to see more interest from Hollingsworth recruiting efforts in 2014.
The newly designed COMtech website (comtechbusinesspark.org) should also help. According to Steve Yost of NC Southeast, more than 20% of leads come through their website. Developers and site selection consultants use the latest tools of information technology to pre-screen in many cases, so it’s imperative that our online presence be credible and effectively deliver our proposition.
Attracting new businesses that create jobs is our primary objective, but COMtech is also responsible for maintaining and enhancing park facilities. Last month we submitted a $100,000 grant application with the NC Division of Parks & Recreation to construct a trail system and recreation area around the lake. If awarded (February), this will be a great asset for the community and local civic entrepreneurs (e.g. Jamie Locklear’s First Tee golf academy). Substantial maintenance was performed in 2013, including: 4.7 miles of canal clearing, access road & water line repairs, beaver removal, and several other projects such as the new directory sign that was made possible by your support.
In summary, we hope to reflect on 2013 as the start of the COMtech comeback, but only time will tell.