Q: Have there been new businesses interested in COMtech?
A: The COMtech Professional Center (Venture Properties LLC) recently welcomed Lucas Personal Training & Fitness, and people that work here in the park are excited to have them. Coach Lucas has the slogan: “Where Can’t Is Not an Option” and we’ve adopted that in the COMtech office.
Overall though, it’s been too quiet, but we’re working every day to change that. The business park and county are truly blessed with unique assets. Plenty of other rural areas have interstates, cheap land, and workforce training, but very few have both a state university and a nationally-ranked community college. Far fewer have culturally rich Native American tribes and wild, scenic rivers. That potential drives high expectations – so with the help of our board members and landowners, we’re working together to get back in a growth pattern.
Q: You said it’s been “too quiet”, can you explain why that might be?
A: There are a few factors, but I’ll mention two that we can directly influence. The first is a lack of available buildings for prospective businesses to occupy here in COMtech. Whether it’s a small start-up, or big industry, 90% of clients are looking for existing building space. COMtech is working with the Southeast Economic Development Commission and other organizations to apply for funding. The plan will likely incorporate some successful elements of the “Bladen’s Bloomin’” industrial project that is led by Chuck Huestess. His team has done a great job helping start-ups over there.
Another factor that seems to have stunted local investment is the misconceptions of COMtech that float around our communities – the most common relating to upset landowners and fees. The recession was rough, but landowner dues have been cut, they’re fully transparent, and COMtech is on a comeback with 95% of members working together through an active Association. I would argue today that there are few places better in the region to do business than in COMtech. With a newly adopted Incentive Plan, 2014 will be an even better year.
Q: Tell us more about the COMtech Incentive Plan.
A: We’ve established a plan to financially reward any COMtech landowner who assists with the successful recruitment of a new business into the park. The reward is directly proportional to the size of the new business. So if, for example, the new business builds a 5,000-ft2 facility on a 2-acre plot, the reward would be nearly $3,000. Not only is that real money, but it’s another benefit of being a business owner in COMtech.
Q: What else are you doing to bring in business?
Improving our visibility among other recruiters and marketers has 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. Those things are being fixed.
In a broader context, our strategy is derived from the competitive advantages we have in the region, so there is focus on distribution-logistics, ag-industry/food processing, advanced textiles, and also healthcare and defense-related businesses.
The most effective approach must first involve our existing businesses – beginning with the simple question: “What would help your company grow?” COMtech, working through local business leaders will host a series of small, sector-specific action teams with the bottom-line goal to bring jobs and greater prosperity to our communities. This will start in January and progress reports will be posted on our website.
Ryan Nance is director of COMtech Business Park.