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Strategic plan sets big goals for Nash County

Posted September 2, 2021 5:00 a.m. EDT

This article was written for our sponsor, Nash County Economic Development.

Like many areas surrounding the Triangle, Nash County has been steadily growing over the years. With that growth — and a convenient location minutes from Raleigh and I-95 — local officials recognized the need for a plan to address new needs and opportunities.

Nash County's economic development strategic plan was created in tandem with Ted Abernathy, Managing Partner, Economic Leadership, an economic development consultancy. The three-year plan was officially launched last year and outlines short-term and long-term economic goals for the county.

"The purpose of the plan is to provide us with a strategic roadmap that guides the county's economic development focus, actions, and investments now and into the future," said Andy Hagy, director of economic development at Nash County. "We were able to take a step back, reflect on where we've been, where we are at present and where we want to go."

In creating the plan, both Hagy's team and Economic Leadership conducted research to identify strengths and weaknesses within the county. By looking into available resources and speaking with key stakeholders in the community and region, the two parties were able to create a set of recommendations.

Specifically, the stakeholders identified the county's location between the Triangle region and I-95, infrastructure, proximity to the Research Triangle, strong industrial base, workforce training and good healthcare as key strengths, while limited broadband and utilities and the marketing of the county's strengths and opportunities were areas marked for improvement.

The plan is both ambitious and realistic, relying on present strengths — like Nash County's large advanced manufacturing, transportation, pharmaceutical and food processing industry presence — to build more opportunities for the future.

"Nash County's location is the current motivation for a lot of opportunities. The Raleigh area is one of the fastest-growing metros in America. On top of that, the county already has good infrastructure, available sites and buildings, and a community college system that's doing the type of training that helps with the jobs being created," said Abernathy. "North Carolina also currently has one of the best business climates in America. In Nash County specifically, they have access to a regional workforce, access to a community college to refine those workers and a strong infrastructure."

One of the big-ticket goals included in the strategic plan is to increase the amount of mixed-use properties in Nash County, creating more residential areas and business opportunities. Additionally, the plan also includes reviewing the infrastructure to ensure the county is ready for growth, which includes water and sewer, as well as broadband across the county.

While the plan covers the next three years, key benchmarks are already in the works or completed. Recently, the county finished development on the 340-acre Middlesex Corporate Centre, which has a 62,500-square-foot shell building that's expandable to 100,000 square feet. The space also has water, sewage and road access. The county has several other industrial sites as well, including Whitaker Business and Industry Center and the 142-acre I-95 NC Distribution Site.

"Twenty years ago, we might've said that Johnson County or Chatham County was the next new hot spot. Now, I think you certainly might say it's Nash County," said Abernathy. "The eastern part of the Triangle area is growing dramatically, and I would say that Nash County is already well-positioned for the industries that are likely to grow. With a new comprehensive plan helping them work on infrastructure and incentive policies, they're ready for business."

Moving forward, key aspects of the plan will address housing and supporting existing businesses, in addition to targeting fast-growing industries like advanced manufacturing, life science, food and beverage, logistics, and distribution. In implementing these changes, the county hopes to increase the quality of life while keeping the cost of living and doing business low.

"The county's plan also includes another important factor for continued economic growth which is focusing on workforce development and continuously improving to keep pace with the changing workplace," said Hagy. "Not only do we have a great community college but we also have STEP, a twin county program which works with students from elementary school to high school to community college, and prepares a pathway into the workplace. What better way to develop a local workforce than to introduce our students to the many great job opportunities right in their backyard."

The plan also points out economic growth and a strategic plan cannot be achieved alone, and requires local, regional and state collaboration. In addition to its local stakeholders, the county closely aligns itself with a variety of economic development allies such as the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and Department of Commerce.

Nash County realizes another key aspect of economic development strategic plans is the important role they are now becoming in streamlining a site selection process and increasing the likelihood of successful corporate location decisions. To determine whether the county will be a match for an existing business expansion or a new business location, many companies now require economic development organizations to provide strategic plans that identify their priorities and goals for their communities.

"To sum up the purpose of the county's strategic plan is it provides not just a vision, but most importantly a plan of action for economic development growth in Nash County", said Hagy. "We want to elevate and enhance Nash County within the Research Triangle and globally and make the county an even more affordable and vibrant place to live, work, prosper — and to let everyone know that Nash County is open for business."

This article was written for our sponsor, Nash County Economic Development.

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