The Cary Economic Development Action Plan is designed to be implemented over a three to five year period. Many of the goals and action steps will take longer to accomplish; in the case of a technology incubator, the time period may be several years.
The organization selected by the town to be responsible for Cary’s economic development program should develop an annual work plan based on the goals and action steps laid out here. Working on a few of the items each year, over the course of three to five years, will lead to goals accomplished and action steps implemented.
In a working session of the Town Council and EDC, the recommendations were prioritized. The consulting team acknowledges that each goal is important. Just because one goal may be rated as a lower priority, it does not mean it should be pushed to the side. All goals are intertwined and interdependent. For example, developing a small technology park for entrepreneurs is directly related to supporting small business development. Similarly, downtown development is often part of small business development. As a participant stated, it is hard to prioritize a list where each item depends upon other items in the list; however, economic development leaders must be given some direction on where to start and how to focus time and resources.
The leadership team’s top prioritized goals reported in detail in the previous section are:
- Reorganize for Economic Development
- Downtown Development
- Existing Business Retention and Expansion
- Small Business and Entrepreneur Development
The consulting team agrees that the top implementation item should be organization. An organization must take responsibility for implementation in order for any of the recommendations to be put into action. This should be step one.
Sanford Holshouser recommends that the Town of Cary move existing business retention and expansion to the second priority. The most important economic development customer is the business located down the street. In fact, over 80% of all new investment and job creation in a community come from existing businesses. The potential for expansions and spin-off developments in Cary is high given the high technology business base. Supporting existing businesses gets the most bang for the economic development dollar.
High Impact Initiatives to Launch Implementation
Sanford Holshouser suggests the following action steps be implemented first under each major recommendation heading. The recommended initiatives will have a high impact compared to start up cost. The action steps are suggested as first steps, because they are relatively easy to get started, have a low start up cost and will show results faster than long term initiatives.
Reorganizing for economic development must be done early on in order to begin full-scale implementation.
Existing Business Retention and Expansion Program. The best dollars in a BRE program are spent on the BRE Coordinator position. It is the relationship between the economic development organization and the company that opens the door to meaningful retention support programs and assistance with expansions.
Product Development. Developing new product is a long term and often expensive initiative. Making economic development allies aware of Cary’s current product inventory is a first step. There are parks in Cary with available land that are not listed on the DOC’s online database. A familiarity tour for county, region and state developers will allow them to better market the product Cary already has available.
Downtown Development. Completing the current downtown planning process is a necessary first step. Next, creating a development zone with targeted incentives downtown is a low cost/high impact step, because the Town spends nothing until a development or improvement is in place and the tax value increase more than pays for the incentive.
Participate in Regional Economic Development. The above mentioned familiarity tour will go a long way in opening the eyes of Cary’s economic development allies, not only to product but also as a venue to outline Cary’s development goals and initiatives.
Small Business and Entrepreneur Development. On the new economic development website, discussed below, links to existing resources such as WTCC, SBTDC, SBA and other organizations should be created for entrepreneurs.
Improve the Permitting Process. First, assign an internal ombudsman to assist developers through the process. Next, work on creating a one-stop permitting center.
Tourism Development. Let NC Travel and Tourism know that Cary is pursuing tourism as a development strategy. Marketing through NC Travel and Tourism can be as easy as the Parks and Recreation Director sending information to the department about events. Invite state travel and tourism officials to Cary for a tourism tour.
Retirement Industry. A presentation to the Town and Chamber by the Wake Forest University professor previously mentioned would be an excellent jump-start for the Cary retirement industry.
Incentive Policy. Contract with a law firm that has experience and specializes in economic development matters to review the Town’s incentive policy.
Target Industry Sectors. Let Cary’s economic development allies (especially WCED and RTRP) know about the Town’s targets for recruitment. This message can be conveyed during the familiarity tour for county, regional and state developers.
Internal Marketing. Start the internal marketing campaign by publicizing this report. In order for the community, businesses, and the local press to support the Town’s economic development goals they must understand them.
External Marketing. The creation of an economic development website will reap rewards for Cary. First, it sets an image and theme that Cary is open for business. Second, information needed by site selection consultants and Cary’s allies in economic development will be gathered and made available. Finally, it can be used internally to raise awareness of Cary’s economic goals.
Staying on the Implementation Track
The consulting team recommends that the responsible economic development organization for Cary hold a planning retreat to include its Board and staff along with town officials to review in depth this report and its recommendations. During the retreat, develop an annual program of work for the 2006 -07 year. The program of work should include action steps from some of the top priority goals such as establishing the BRE program. This breaks the lengthy set of recommendations into smaller steps for implementation. At the end of the 2006-07 year, review progress toward accomplishing the program of work and select new action steps for the following year’s program. Sanford Holshouser has assisted communities with the implementation process through an annual review that includes reviewing progress and setting new goals for the next year. Whatever process Cary uses, measuring success, tracking progress toward accomplishing the overall plan and regularly tackling new action steps is important.