Sanford Holshouser has addressed the question: How can Cary improve its capability to attract new capital investment, tax base and quality jobs while retaining and expanding its existing businesses and industries? The question and its answers are understood to include doing no harm to the environment. In fact, Sanford Holshouser focuses on sustainable development alternatives. The objective is to expand the Town’s economy without impairing the superb quality of life enjoyed by the people of Cary. Sanford Holshouser is convinced that this study will help Cary answer the basic question by capitalizing on strengths, overcoming weaknesses, taking advantage of opportunities, and avoiding threats.
In the United States, there are some 15,000 economic development organizations competing for a few hundred significant relocation and expansion projects in any given year. To compete above a basic level demands excellence in all aspects of economic development. Several responses to Sanford Holshouser’s interviews, focus groups, and online survey exhibit a sense of self-satisfaction with the status quo. Some show a lack of awareness about the strong competitiveness of communities worldwide and even in Cary’s own Triangle backyard. Simply waiting for the “right” companies to show up at Cary’s front door is not a winning strategy. Neither is relying on residential and commercial growth to produce the revenues and good jobs necessary for a progressive Town. Cary should address economic growth through a comprehensive plan not limited to residential and commercial business attraction. Conscious diversification and smart growth of the business base are crucial to ensuring a continuation of Cary’s economic well-being.
Consistent leadership, innovative ideas, positive attitudes, dedication to planning, clearly articulated goals, and a commitment to regional cooperation are necessary program elements that can sustain the economic success thus far enjoyed by Cary. Sanford Holshouser notes that Cary has been through visioning and branding programs and suggests that the process continue. Local support for existing industry and business, targeted recruiting practices, entrepreneurial development, workforce preparedness, downtown improvements, creating a market for tourism, attracting the young knowledge class as well as the retiring baby boomers, and working to enhance the quality of life should all be a part of a comprehensive economic development strategy.
Recommendations were developed based on input from Cary opinion leaders, interviews with economic development allies outside Cary, Sanford Holshouser’s practitioner-based expertise, and research on best practices. Strong and, in some cases, controversial recommendations follow. These are not necessarily in order of priority.
- Make Cary “America’s Heart of High Tech.” The Town of Cary web site carries a tag line for the Town: “The Technology Town of North Carolina.” Closely identified with the RTP, the home of SAS and many other high technology companies, and neighborhoods filled with highly educated people, Cary legitimately could strengthen that brand by calling itself “America’s Heart of High Tech.” While there are 1,280 references to “heart of high tech” in a Google search, most often referring to broad regions in general, our cursory search found no specific use of the term to brand any city or town in the world. What better town in America to claim that title than the hometown for RTP? As an anchor to the brand, SAS’s penchant for civic involvement might prompt it to join in Cary’s development of a high technology park and a high tech incubator. NCSU and WTCC would also make great partners in the project. An enhancement of this idea would be to form a small venture capital fund to entice high tech companies to locate in Cary. Early stage technology companies would be delighted to find space in a modern, full service technology park with funding for their discoveries next door to RTP. Moreover, Cary has the livability features to provide the knowledge class with a great place to live. This package should be marketed more aggressively.
- Modify the Economic Development Organization for the New Economy. Responsibilities for economic development in Cary are diffused and are somewhat confusing. The spread of economic development services includes DOC, the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP), WCED, the Cary Chamber and its economic development committee, and the Town’s Economic Development Commission (EDC). Additionally, when a client is brought to the table, usually by the Chamber, the mayor, manager, and planning staff typically become involved, and when the project involves incentives, the entire Board is drawn in. Fortunately, the Town has most of the attributes looked for in the new knowledge economy, but Cary should back away from the client table and look at the big picture of economic development that begins with organization and preparations before the client arrives in Town.
In the hierarchy of North Carolina economic development, DOC obviously is responsible for statewide marketing, advertising, and handling clients generated thereby. RTRP markets the region well but relies on county economic development offices for client servicing and in-the-trenches activities. WCED is an outstanding professional organization that conducts economic development marketing, advertising, and promotion as well as client servicing for all of Wake County. Most towns in Wake County have an official point of contact to assist in client handling such as the Town of Holly Spring’s Economic Development Director who is a town department head, or, in Wake Forest and Cary, the Chamber Director is the Economic Development Director and point of contact. These economic development programmatic arrangements can be made to work and work well as evidenced by Cary’s success in attracting companies to Town. Cary’s leadership has expressed confidence in the historical relationship between the Town and Chamber and has noted the unique abilities of the current Chamber Director in client handling and negotiations with prospective companies looking at Cary. The Chamber’s primary focus is economic development.
However, there are missed opportunities for Cary under the current arrangement, because the Town does not have a single-purpose economic development organization constantly pushing for business development that can take up the depth of work recommended in this plan. For example, what organization is tasked with guiding “product” development for the Town? Would the Chamber Director have the time to participate in regional economic development as envisioned later in this section? Only a full-time, professional economic developer is likely to have time to focus on the exclusive features needed for the type of website discussed in the marketing section of this plan. Consider the many recommendations offered by this report. What organization can devote the leadership commitment, resources, and time to implement the recommendations on behalf of the Town?
Sanford Holshouser offers three alternatives to Cary’s economic development organization. In all cases, we recommend that client-servicing responsibilities remain with WCED, which is staffed for that role and does it exceptionally well. There is also no reason to change the marketing hierarchy (i.e., DOC, RTRP, WCED) although all internal marketing and some special marketing should be the responsibility of the Cary economic development organization as discussed in the marketing recommendations in this report.
- Alternative One: Retain the current arrangement with the Chamber. The Town leadership recognizes the Chamber as the voice of business in Cary. Specific economic development activities are carried out by the Cary Chamber under an agreement with the Town. The Chamber Director acts as the Town’s economic developer and is the first point of contact for developers seeking sites in Cary. Economic development is the primary program of the Chamber. For these purposes, the Chamber Director reports to his board through a Chamber economic development committee. The relationships of the Town’s EDC in this setup are murky. The EDC advises the Town council but does not have operational control of the economic development program or staff.
- If Cary is to maintain this diffused organization for economic development, the relationship of the EDC to the Chamber economic development committee and to the Director should be clarified. The relationship could be clarified using a Memorandum of Understanding and an annual service agreement. In a Memorandum of Understanding, each organization clearly outlines responsibilities, duties and accountability. An annual service agreement outlines what economic development services the Chamber will return to the Town for that year’s appropriation. Usually an annual program of work is jointly developed by the Town and Chamber and serves as the base of accountability for appropriation.
- Most importantly, if the major recommendations from this report are to be implemented, at least two new staff members should be assigned to the chamber: 1) a dedicated, full-time Economic Development Director, and 2) an Existing Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) Coordinator. Administrative support and space will also be required. In addition to staff, funding the program initiatives of this report will be required. There will be a cost to Cary no matter which organizational option is selected. Implementing the recommendations in this report will take considerably more funding than the Town currently allocates to economic development. There will be the cost of salaries for new personnel, office space and funds to carry out the program of work. If economic development is to be housed within the Chamber of Commerce, the Town and Chamber will, through the above described documents, need to work through the development of job descriptions, salary ranges, reporting hierarchy, etc.
- Additional responsibilities for plan implementation, strategic planning, product development, internal marketing, and the BRE program should be assigned to this new division of the Chamber. The primary advantages of the Chamber’s current arrangement are its familiarity and comfort level, historical leadership in economic development, the leadership of the current Chamber Director, and the simple fact that it has worked well. The primary disadvantage of this alternative is the organization’s remoteness from control by Town government and questions about how ready the Chamber is to step into new economic development roles with significantly more responsibility. The former concern comes out of Sanford Holshouser’s survey of many economic development organizations. In many cases, when economic development is moved under the Chamber with direct local government oversight, the lines of responsibilities and accountability eventually become blurred. For example, almost all that the Chamber does can be considered economic development. The Economic Development Director could be pulled into working on initiatives that are considered economic development but outside the Town of Cary scope. Diluting focus and resources leads to diluted results.
- Alternative Two: Establish a Town of Cary Economic Development Department and hire a professional Director and BRE Coordinator. The Economic Development Department would, of course, be under the administrative control of the Town Manager but work under the policy guidance of the EDC as a dedicated advocacy agency for economic development. All administrative and operational responsibilities mentioned for the Chamber-type organization above would fall to the EDC and the new Department. Under this arrangement, Sanford Holshouser recommends that the EDC become a Commission in fact, not simply an advisory board.
- The cost to the Town of Cary in creating an Economic Development Department would be similar to the cost of implementing this program under the Chamber of Commerce. The entire cost of salaries, office space, program implementation and support would fall to the Town.
- The primary advantage to the Department organization is that it focuses solely on the initiatives of Cary and is directly monitored by the Town. The EDC develops and implements economic development policy guiding the program on behalf of the Town Council. Other advantages include close working relationships with other local government departments associated with economic development such as planning and building inspections.
- The primary disadvantages are that typical municipal economic development departments tend to become bureaucratic, sometimes are assigned projects outside economic development, and often cannot generate the innovative and entrepreneurial excitement that motivates the private sector. This disadvantage, coupled with the desire to involve private funding in local economic development, has driven the trend away from organizational control by local government. In-house government management is a regressive step in the evolution of economic development, and Sanford Holshouser strongly advises against it.
- Alternative Three: Form a new 501(c)3 public-private partnership dedicated strictly to economic development, hereinafter referred to, for sake of convenience, as the Cary Alliance for Prosperity (CAP). Assign all economic development responsibilities to the CAP, which would establish its own offices and hire its own staff. The Board of Directors would be weighted toward the private sector but would include Town appointees and some ex-officio seats such as the Mayor, the Town Manager, and the Chamber Chairperson.
- The Town would provide the start-up budget and require that the CAP begin raising at least half, preferably 60 percent, of its future budgets from private sector fundraising. In this model, the town and the private sector share the cost of implementing an economic development program making this option the most cost effective.
- The primary advantages of the Partnership organization are shared funding, focus on defined economic development priorities and that it provokes local economic development interest within the private sector, involves business leaders, and it tends to be run efficiently as a business. The most effective means of economic development marketing is peer-to-peer contact, and this non-profit would involve the private sector as ambassadors in recruitment. The model of economic development as a Town department does not open the door to strong private sector leadership.
- Involving the Chamber of Commerce with CAP as suggested would retain private sector leadership in economic development while engaging many private sector businesses and industries that are not currently involved with the Chamber. The non-profit structure bridges the private and public sectors and brings the groups together to lead economic development for Cary. In any community, there is a concern of depleting leadership. By creating another venue for the private sector to become involved in economic development, the overall leadership pool and number of private sector individuals engaged in economic development increases. In small towns, simply finding enough people to serve could be a problem. Even though it is sometimes thought of as small, Cary’s has a variety and broad range of leadership to tap.
- The primary disadvantages are that a Partnership is more remote from Town government influence and control, a fact that most communities that have adopted the model believe is an advantage, and it could be seen as a competitor to the Chamber for private sector funding although most find this type of collaboration conducive to better fundraising for both entities.
Sanford Holshouser strongly recommends a combination of alternatives one and three. We recommend that the Town continue its arrangement with the Chamber and form the new CAP organization directly linked to the Chamber. CAP should act as a bridge between the Town and Chamber with each organization providing valuable services to the Town in matters of economic development. As suggested above, the Town would provide initial funding to CAP but reduce its allocations over time as CAP becomes more financially independent through its own private sector fundraising activity. Sanford Holshouser’s rationale for this recommendation follows.
- By retaining the Town-Chamber arrangement, the Town continues a historical bond between the Chamber’s business connections and Town government, a successful relationship that should not be dismissed lightly. The arrangement preserves the traditional business interests and roles that the Chamber has in local government. It also takes advantage of the continuing interest of the Chamber’s committee and the exceptionally professional services that the current Chamber Director provides as the lead economic developer and point of contact for Cary. By allowing the Chamber to narrow its focus and share responsibilities with the new organization, each becomes more efficient at tasks.
- By forming CAP, the Town gains an organization with the necessary, single-purpose advocacy for economic development. CAP can be charged with implementing this plan and developing its own plan of work to take Cary to a new level of economic development. Cary, fortunately, has an excellent base of CEOs and company executives to call on for public service as the board of directors for CAP. Once the private sector is energized within the private-public partnership, innovations in economic development are sure to follow. CAP should be closely aligned with the Chamber, perhaps co-located in the Chamber building if space is available.
- There are some disadvantages to utilizing a non-profit corporation to serve as the development entity. There are obvious costs for a new organization such as salaries, office space, equipment and so on. There is a degree of increased administration involved in establishing a non-profit corporation (e.g. incorporating the entity, applying for tax-exempt status, etc.) and maintaining its status (e.g. annual reports, tax returns, etc.). However, the advantages of utilizing a non-profit corporation as the development entity far exceed the disadvantages. Those advantages are:
- A non-profit entity, particularly a section 501(c)(3) corporation, is far more effective at raising private funds and foundation grants than a governmental department would be. This is directly related to the tax advantages of a charitable contribution. Professional fundraising firms are often utilized to raise dollars from the private sector. It has been Sanford Holshouser’s experience that professional fundraising firms more than pay for the cost by raising considerably more dollars than an in-house campaign. In fact, many fundraising firms tie fees to the amount of funds raised thereby increasing the incentive to be successful. The economic development program also gains substantial private sector business expertise by having business leaders involved in the management of the entity through board memberships.
- Economic development is a highly complex and competitive profession requiring professional economic developers who are equally competitive and able to grasp the intricacies of the profession. A non-profit economic development corporation can more easily enter into motivational compensation structures which a local government may find impossible or politically difficult to do.
- Working through a non-profit economic development corporation helps insulate economic development activities from politics and provides some protection for elected political leaders if controversy arises surrounding the economic development program.
- Some site selection consultants and corporate staff have a preference for dealing with a private sector entity as opposed to a governmental entity. The preference may be related to perceptions rather than realistic concerns, but this is often the case.
- There are certain expenditures regularly incurred in economic development efforts which may be more palatable to the public if paid from a private sector entity as opposed to a governmental entity (e.g. entertaining clients, high profile travel, etc.).
- As discussed briefly above, if structured and managed correctly, the non-profit entity would absorb any unforeseen liabilities and buffer the Town and other entities from liability.
- Sanford Holshouser suggests that the Town utilize the EDC to organize the CAP. The EDC should work closely with the Chamber to iron out organizational changes contemplated before submitting its recommendations to the Town Council. The EDC should facilitate the establishment of CAP and link it appropriately with the Chamber. The EDC then may be eliminated or restructured to become the first board of directors for the CAP. In any event, some members logically would be rolled into the new non-profit. For the restructuring work, the Town may wish to add special “temporary” members to the EDC to represent any economic development related organization not currently represented on the EDC.
- In its deliberations, the EDC should make recommendations with respect to responsibility for other aspects of economic development such as small business development, travel and tourism, the retirement industry, and other necessary activities. Other considerations include budget matters, the controls and constraints to be imposed on CAP in its relationships with the Town, and how to recruit a professional economic developer to lead CAP.
- Institute an Existing Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) Program. Participants in this study identified existing industry and business support as the highest priority for the Town. Sanford Holshouser agrees, as do the Mayor and Chamber Director who frequently visit local industries and businesses, that this is an important element of a BRE program. While preparing product (sites and buildings) for new companies that may locate in the Town, Cary’s primary emphasis should be on the companies that already make up the business, commercial and industrial base. Sanford Holshouser recommends that Cary implement a formal Existing Business Retention and Expansion Program. It is much more than the annual golf game for executives during “Business Appreciation Week,” although that too should be part of the program. It is not an overnight flight. It involves top leadership from the Town, the assignment of an experienced person to run it, and the gradual development of a consistent program. Nationally, existing industries and businesses create 75 to 80 percent of all new jobs and investment in a locale. In economic development, as in any sales related field, existing businesses are the most inexpensive customers to keep. A retention and expansion program, if supported by the Town board, carefully implemented and enthusiastically facilitated by a dedicated leader, will create more jobs for Cary than any other economic development program the Town could undertake. Here are some services that the Town should provide to local companies:
Lock onto Cary’s largest existing business group: Research Triangle Park. Even though the park proper is not in Cary, it serves as the employment hub for Cary citizens. The Cary BRE program should target RTP companies for retention and expansion visits, coordinate marketing and promotion, capture spin-off developments and work to overcome barriers to expansion.
Coordinate Cary’s BRE program with the established existing industry and business programs at Wake County Economic Development (WCED), WTCC and the regional DOC office. WCED and DOC existing industries programs generally concentrate exclusively on major-employment companies. WTCC offers programs that assist in industrial, business, and commercial retention. Cary has interest in all of the above regardless of the size of the business.
Develop a systematic program for maintaining information on local companies. Consider installing the Synchronist Business Information System, a business retention software program supported by Blane, Canada Ltd., a nationally respected economic development marketing company based in Wheaton, Illinois (www.blanecanada.com).
Call on companies regularly. Keep records of needs and Town actions to assist in meeting the needs through a system such as the one described above. Measure the effectiveness of the program.
- Show appreciation for the businesses and their employees. Expand on “Business Appreciation Week” to ensure that the message of true appreciation is received.
- Resolve problems related to permitting, infrastructure, government services, and workforce associated issues.
Advise companies of beneficial programs and services such as financing, technical assistance, grants, training and international trade.
Assist with expansion plans including site selection, financing, infrastructure support, worker training and incentives.
Conduct research on demographics, wage information, cost of living statistics, etc., and share the information with local companies.
- Through a senior staff person designated as the business liaison, keep communications open between the Town’s leadership and the businesses, especially Town decisions affecting the companies and, conversely, early warning from the companies concerning layoffs or closings.
- Use local company executives to build leads for attracting their vendors and associated companies to the Town. CEOs, presidents, and other executives can become Cary ambassadors to the business world.
- Act prudently. Developing a strong existing business retention and expansion program is necessary to ensure that the Town knows and understands what is going on with its local industries and major businesses. In this volatile time of corporate musical chairs, open, frank business discussions with executives of Cary’s major companies should begin now.
- First, the Town should assure the companies of Cary’s total support for maintaining local operations for as long as possible. For example, even in the face of foreign competition, local companies often can compete effectively by shifting to a niche market for specialty items. Cary’s leadership needs to know how the companies do it and what, if anything, the Town can do to help.
- Without becoming negative, conduct open discussion about all the “what if” questions regarding company closings or reductions in operations. This can head off or alleviate anxiety when it happens. Contingency plans for handling the publicity, for example, should be developed early on. Do not let the mayor or manager stumble for words when the news breaks.
- With the company’s cooperation, offer the space to be vacated for another local company’s expansion or use it to attract new industry or business.
- The Town and WTCC can develop a plan for employee assistance and retraining using the DOC Pillowtex model to organize a rapid response team of state and local officials experienced in plant closings.
- To the degree of Cary’s financial dependence upon a particular company (tax base, utility charges, other Town income, jobs), the Town may wish to increase financial reserves to cover income losses should the company cease operations. The main point is to be prepared for the worst and execute the plan immediately.
While the recommendations above are, for the most part, aimed at the Town’s major employers, the program should be expanded over time to include small businesses as discussed in other “Recommendations” that follow.
- Concentrate on Product Development. In the competitive arena of economic development, Cary must be better prepared than its competitors before meeting prospective businesses considering the area for a location project. Sanford Holshouser is a great proponent of product development, that is, creating or enhancing the community’s physical attributes in order to attract new business or to provide the framework that existing local companies need in order to expand. Product is another word for site, building and infrastructure development.
Long gone are the days when a community could tell the prospect: “If you come, we can run a water line to the site.” That is simply too little, too late. There are many competing communities that can tell the prospect: “Our DOC-certified site is already fully served with water, sewer, and highway access and is connected for communications with all utilities in place. Our site is properly zoned, graded, landscaped, environmentally tested, and permitted, and it is shovel-ready. Moreover, the leadership here truly wants a company like yours in our Town which is why we have developed this modern technology park.”
With the Research Triangle Park examining its future growth strategy, the region studying mini-hubs linked to RTP and fewer acres of land available for business development, Cary should take advantage of the current discussions to position Cary are as a hub for future growth.
Of the 101 sites listed for Wake County on the DOC Building and Sites website in January 2006, only two were in Cary. One is a corporate park with small lots, mostly zoned office/institutional and priced at $272,000 per acre, up. At those prices, Cary is not likely to attract many large recruitment prospects. Another site adjacent to RDU is more attractive for light manufacturing or for an R&D facility. It contains 125 acres but priced at $99,000 per acre.
Only six buildings in Cary are listed on the DOC site, mostly flex space buildings with less than 100,000 square feet and lease prices at about $3.25/foot.
While there are most certainly sites and buildings not listed with DOC (which is a mistake, if so), the DOC listings, nevertheless, reveal a lack of product availability in Cary. There is a trite but accurate saying in economic development: “You can’t sell from an empty wagon.” Cary has a magnificent wagon, but the wagon is either empty of product or not marketed.
Sanford Holshouser recommends that Cary apply the following formula for economic development success: Business Park + Sites + Available Buildings = Product = Economic Development Success. This is not necessarily true for some parts of North Carolina, but it is logically a sure thing for Cary. Community leaders ranked a business park as dead last in priority as an economic development strategy. Only one or two supported constructing a speculative building. While we agree on the spec building issue (see discussion below), Sanford Holshouser strongly disagrees with the Cary leadership on the business park priority and recommends that it be advanced to a higher priority behind the Existing Business Retention and Expansion Program initiative.
In addition to 65 acres in Town zoned “I” (Industrial), there are 680 acres inside the corporate limits and an additional 775 acres in Cary’s planning jurisdiction zoned “ORD” (Office, Research and Development).Light Manufacturing, one of the targets recommended for Cary by Whittaker Associates, is a permitted uses in an ORD zone. Much of the ORD property, however, lacks adequate water and wastewater service or highway access to make it attractive to industry. Sanford Holshouser recommends that Cary increase its competitive business-attraction position by protecting the I and ORD properties from encroachment by residential and commercial development while encouraging developers to improve the properties for light manufacturing. Cary should identify developable sections of the properties appropriate for certification by DOC and work with property owners to improve the infrastructure and obtain the certification. “Shovel ready” property that meets light industrial needs will pay off to Cary in property tax and jobs. We recommend that the Town make room for industrial development, especially for a high-tech park.
Measured strictly by microeconomics, corporate/business/industrial parks may appear to be unprofitable ventures for communities, since land and preparation costs are often included in the incentive offered the company to locate in the Town. Nevertheless, they are great loss leaders that attract companies and pay off to the Town in property, sales taxes and job growth.
Talk to neighboring towns and counties about establishing a multi-jurisdictional industry and business park, not necessarily in Cary but within normal commuting distance for Cary citizens. A multi-jurisdictional park is just as it sounds: two or more units of local government sharing in the cost of developing a park and sharing in the tax revenues generated from developments. The local governments’ share of tax revenue is generally in proportion to the share of investment in development cost. There are examples of multi-jurisdictional parks where one city/county secures property and another city/county provides water and sewer service. In the Kerr-Tar Hub project discussed below, the multi-jurisdictional non-profit created by the four units of local government may contract the development to a private developer. Using a multi-jurisdictional park arrangement does not preclude private sector led development.
A multi-jurisdictional park would allow Cary to enjoy the benefits of being an employment hub, like RTP, but without housing large acreage sites within the City. Chatham County is a good prospect. Other options may include municipalities such as Morrisville, Apex or Holly Springs. As I-540 advances toward reality, it opens up excellent potential sites for a high tech business park. No matter where the park is located, the local governments could share in the development costs and share in the tax proceeds. Jobs created in the park would be available to any qualified person without regard to the community he or she lives in, so people within commuting range (e.g., Cary) would certainly benefit from the job creation. Sanford Holshouser has assisted in the landmark, four-county mid-technology park (“Hub”) project initiated by the Kerr-Tar Council of Governments north of Raleigh-Durham, so the groundwork for multi-jurisdictional parks is well established.
Sustainable economic development models suggest that Cary review areas in the corporate limits that could be redeveloped for the technology incubator or technology park. There may be areas underutilized that could be redeveloped for business use. There are more notes below using smart growth in Cary’s model for development.
Think beyond a spec building. Current construction costs and the high number of speculative buildings available in North Carolina should give the Town cause for caution regarding a spec building. This fact validates the majority opinion of participants in this study who overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a spec building for Cary. Sanford Holshouser concurs that a spec building at this time is too risky.
A relatively inexpensive alternative to the spec building is the computer generated “virtual” shell building offered by a few construction-related companies. Sanford Holshouser has worked with Facilities Corporation of America for this service. The Town would work with a private developer to select, control, and grade a site, and preferably have the site certified by DOC. The development company would design and “construct” the virtual building by computer. Architectural plans, permitting, and other building preparations can be accomplished in advance. The building is then available for a virtual “showing” to a prospective company when it visits Cary, or it can be placed on CD and mailed to prospects. The computer model may easily be altered as to size, ceiling height, etc. With all the advanced preparations, the building can be built about three to four months quicker than a “start-from-scratch” building. Moreover, FCA will help the Town market it, because a sister company, John S. Clark, would hope to perform the construction services.
Add certified sites to the menu. If Cary decides against a business park, it should consider developing one or more sites with a minimum of 20 acres, preferably 40 acres or more (this concept also fits with the virtual building concept discussed above). The site should be certified under the DOC program. A certified site may be the fundamental justification for a DOC or WCED developer to steer a prospect to Cary instead of to another town that has no certified site. At this time, there is only one DOC certified site listed in all of Wake County. Having one or more certified sites in Cary would give the Town a substantial advantage in business recruitment.
There are developers in the RTRP area that would be willing to collaborate with the Town on a business park development. Cary could use some form of “land banking,” paying $1 to the property owner to gain control of the land, improving it for business use and, when it sells to a company, paying the landowner the original price of the property plus some or all of the gain in sale price. Another alternative would be to encourage a private development company to agree by contract to develop a business park, and the Town would agree to provide all utilities to the site and pay for the certification process. This approach makes everyone a winner.
- Create the Cary Technology Incubator. Cary is near home to the biggest technology asset in North Carolina, RTP. The environment in Cary is entrepreneurial and has fostered the growth of local companies into international players. Using these assets to Cary’s advantage in a technology incubator will reap economic development rewards for years to come. Under the section below on small business and entrepreneur development, Sanford Holshouser describes the importance of home grown businesses. Wealth remains in the community, businesses most often expand where they start, and serial entrepreneurs are the best way to grow a technology economy.
Sanford Holshouser recommends that Cary partner with WTCC to conduct a feasibility study for a technology incubator. The feasibility study will determine if Cary’s economy can support such an incubator.
Some communities have turned to virtual incubators instead of the “old-fashioned” brick and mortar buildings. Virtual incubators allow for mentoring and shared support services but lack the shared space, networking, and synergies created by housing entrepreneurs together.
The technology incubator could be started by the Town’s economic development program and spun out into its own non-profit organization.
- Revitalize Downtown. Downtown received many negative comments from participants in this study. There is still a question as to where the boundaries of downtown are. In economic development terms, downtown appearance is not a critical factor. Like other quality of life features, however, downtown enters into the overall selection process and could break a tie among competing communities if all other factors are basically equal. Regardless, the historical, civic and social reasons for creating an attractive, active downtown are obvious, and it is clear that Town leaders are moving to reverse the fortunes of downtown. Sanford Holshouser agrees with the preliminary findings of the Town Center Civic & Cultural Arts District Study and previous recommendations (Town Center Area Plan Implementation Committee Report in 2003).
Specifically, downtown should feature high-density, mixed-use space for residential, shops, restaurants, entertainment, government offices, and a cultural center with outdoor art. The theme should incorporate a small town atmosphere, tree-lined streetscapes and a heart-of-downtown park. Improved access, traffic roundabouts and multi-level parking are critical to serve the higher density neighborhood and downtown customers. The Town could be the initiator of a downtown organization to lead the efforts to revitalize downtown, spinning the organization out of government when it is on its feet.
The Town should consider appointing a committee with specific responsibilities for implementation of the Town Center Plan.
Innovative private-public partnerships in other North Carolina towns, notably Morganton, Davidson and Clayton, have resolved the “who-pays-what-and-how” problem for downtown redevelopment.
The City of Hickory in western North Carolina has had success with downtown renewal and property renovations by offering cash grants to owners who improve their properties. The incentives are more than repaid by the increase in property valuations and the resulting increase in tax receipts. The City of Gastonia has a model incentive program to encourage downtown development. We recommend Cary consider a similar program. Tax increment financing (TIF) for downtown improvements is also an excellent financial vehicle now available in North Carolina.
Many cities in North Carolina and beyond adopt a rehabilitation code to encourage downtown development. The code allows for buildings to be remodeled to a lower standard than new construction, which maintains the historic character of the property.
Consider some of the downtown revitalization, “smart growth” solutions on the website www.smartgrowth.org. For example: Santa Cruz, CA, and its Accessory Dwelling Unit solution to affordable housing; and Minneapolis-St. Paul’s special legislation to allow the city to grow into a “Livable Community.”
The key, of course, is to reach consensus on a plan and begin implementation, even if the project must be done in phases.
- Participate in Regional Economic Development. Imagine for a moment what Cary would be like if the state capital had not been moved from New Bern to Raleigh. Or for a more recent event with almost as much historical impact, picture Cary without Research Triangle Park. Quickly, can you name the 12 municipalities in Wake County or 13 counties of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership? Do you know about the four-county Kerr-Tar Hub Project? This brief exercise is meant to emphasize what regionalism means to Cary and how interdependent the communities in the area have been and continue to be. If Cary lost the high tech jobs available in RTP or the Raleigh government center, the Town would wither on the vine. Employees in Wake County drive from one town to another to work without giving it a thought. A truck from the Raleigh Farmers Market does not stop at Cary’s town limits and wait for another truck to make a delivery to a local restaurant. Similarly, economic development does not know boundaries. It knows industry, tourism, workforce, commerce, trade, cash flow, jobs, but not boundaries. Here are a few suggestions that would return economic development benefits to Cary through cooperation with the other communities of the region.
Become more deeply involved with WCED. Cary’s representative on the WCED board should report regularly to the Town Board of Commissioners, the EDC, and to Cary citizens (see Public Relations below). The EDC should be attuned to the activities and plans of WCED and RTRP and assist them in executing the plans. The Town’s economic developer should attempt to be WCED’s best friend, constantly marketing Cary’s sites, buildings and plans to WCED. Offer volunteer company executives from Cary to WCED as ambassadors for visiting clients and site selection consultants or to go on sales trips with WCED when it calls on companies in the executive’s field.
Establish close working relationships with RTP and its companies. Continue to follow through on opportunities that are sure to occur. Treat RTP as Cary’s biggest business park, and then try to make it a virtual reality within the adjoining properties along Davis Drive. Targeted industry sectors for RTP and Cary have more similarities than differences. Share leads and prospects between Cary and RTP; that should be a natural process that will benefit both parties. Court spin-offs from R&D companies that often need space outside the Park to get started, and offer that space. This dovetails with the “America’s Heart of High Tech” concept and the recommendation for developing a high tech center, incubator and park. The ability to build relationships is an art to be cultivated among professional economic developers as well as the Cary-RTP leadership.
Remember to market Cary to Wake County government. Building relationships among economic development groups is important, but Cary economic development initiatives that ignore the impact of the County Board of Commissioners and the County Manager are likely to languish. For example, incentives policies that create conflict between the Town and County cannot help Cary. Such potential snags in the economic development process should be openly discussed and cleared up if possible. If the Town takes on the idea of a technology center, does it have the political capital to bring Wake County in on the project?
Continue to cultivate relationships with WTCC and its Western Campus at Millpond. Help to make it the best community college campus in the state. The best friend of economic development in North Carolina is the community college system. Many companies do not know about WTCC’s programs that can be tailored specifically for a company. Cary should become WTCC’s marketing agent in order to benefit local companies. Ask the college to become involved with the Town’s economic development activities and planning. Despite confidentiality demands for economic development projects that are in the works, it is imperative that the college be brought in early for any project involving training. Cary should also continue to build its relationships with NCSU and join it in appropriate projects with WTCC Millpond.
- Establish a Small Business and Entrepreneurial Development Program. “Entrepreneurship” is a perfect rallying cry for Cary. Much has been said about the “great economic development buffalo hunt” which led towns and cities to sell their souls for that one big, heavy manufacturing company with 2,000 jobs and an equally heavy tax base. Cary doesn’t need it. Cary should concentrate on strategies to recruit several companies employing 5, 10, 25, 100 or 200 people in a number of different business and industry sectors. The goal should be to balance the service sector with R&D and high tech, light manufacturing companies that are less susceptible to going off-shore for lower labor costs. An exciting opportunity for Cary is growing companies from within the Town through entrepreneurship. Cary has been and continues to be in a perfect position to attract the high tech entrepreneur who may want to be near RTP but not in it…the next SAS. Again, America’s Heart of High Tech. Following are some observations, recommendations and resources for entrepreneurship:
- Nurture new small businesses. Homegrown businesses are important to local economies, because most of the wealth generated by the business stays in the community rather than going to a corporate headquarters in another state or country. Another advantage is that most entrepreneurial businesses remain near the original ownership and tend to expand operations in the municipality or close by. This is a strategy ready-made for the Chamber of Commerce.
- The Town and Chamber should establish a one-stop entrepreneur’s center that works collaboratively with WTCC’s Small Business Center to develop entrepreneurial programs. Some of the resources and services that are available to support such efforts are described below. Sanford Holshouser recommends developing a guide for entrepreneurs on the services below and others. The guide should be linked between the Town’s economic development website and Chamber’s website. Use these resources to guide Cary’s entrepreneurs:
- WTCC’s Small Business Center provides counseling, research, and information geared towards starting a new business. Here the entrepreneur finds out how to write a business plan. Available services include seminars, direct one-on-one assistance, a network of linkages, a resource and information center, computer software classes, retraining for employees, and customized training opportunities. Counseling services are free and confidential and include guidance for developing business plans and financial projections.
- The national SCORE (www.score.org) program matches retired business and industry executives with entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteers provide free, confidential counseling (in person or via e-mail) to assist with the formation and success of small businesses. SCORE has a Raleigh office (856-4739) and offers services in Cary weekly.
- The North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (www.sbtdc.org), headquartered in Raleigh, is the business development arm of the University of North Carolina system with offices at each UNC system campus. Operated in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA), its primary focus is management counseling for medium-sized businesses. The free and confidential counseling services can address issues related to feasibility assessment, business planning, financing, human resources, marketing, and operations. Its staff is well versed with regard to SBA loans and procurement programs and can prepare financial projections to meet SBA lending requirements. More specialized market development assistance is available in areas such as international trade and exporting, government procurement, and technology development and commercialization. Additionally, SBTDC offers educational programs that focus on change management, leadership development, and strategic positioning.
- The SBA (www.sba.gov) is the Federal government agency set up to assist small businesses. Its primary mechanism for ensuring that small businesses have access to capital is through loan guarantees.
- The SBA 7(a) Loan Program is the most widely recognized. It is used for general business purposes and has a number of variations that include guarantees for term debt as well as revolving debt. When a borrower receives an SBA loan, the loan is with a bank or other lender. The SBA guarantees a portion of the indebtedness, usually 50 percent.
- The SBA 504 Loan Program is the SBA’s economic development financing program that helps small businesses grow while benefiting communities through tax base expansion, business growth, and job creation. Loans are available for most types of small businesses to purchase and/or renovate capital assets including land, buildings and equipment. Financing is provided through Certified Development Companies (CDCs), which are non-profit economic development organizations. CDCs work with the SBA and private-sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses. A typical 504 project is structured so that the bank or lender finances 50% of eligible project costs, the CDC finances up to 40%, and the small business contributes 10 - 20%. An important advantage of the program is that soft costs can be included in the project budget. All CDCs are authorized to make loans. Contact information is available at the SBA website or National Association of Development Companies website (www.nadco.org).
- The SBA 7(m) Micro Loan Program was developed to increase the availability of smaller loans to small business borrowers. Under this program, the SBA makes funds available to non-profit intermediaries who, in turn, make loans to eligible borrowers in amounts up to $35,000. The maximum loan term is six years. Contact information for participating lenders is available on the SBA website. Small businesspersons who have been successful using the Micro loan Program become advisers for the new entrepreneurs perpetuating business growth locally.
- Improve the Permitting Process. Among developers and site location consultants across the state and Southeast region, as well as among a large number of the Cary citizens who participated in this study, the Town has a poor reputation as a place to make business happen. There were too many stories to write them off as simple gripes by irresponsible developers. While some experiences were not recent, the negative perception of the Town lives on, and in marketing, perception is reality. A few developers said they have given up trying to work in Cary. Permit costs were a major complaint, but the biggest problems involved the time it takes to get a permit and the inherent complication of the regulations (“Time is Money”). Sanford Holshouser has experience with other quickly expanding North Carolina cities that have tightened development controls and made existing businesses unable to continue in the communities where they have “grown-up.” Sanford Holshouser does not recommend throwing well-designed regulations to the wind; rather, the Town must work towards a business-friendly model of doing business.
- Several business owners, developers and site consultants noted that there have been recent improvements in the Town’s attitude toward development. However, they believe interpretation and enforcement of development rules are still unnecessarily strict and that the Town should revise and soften development regulations (especially the “hide-the-sign” ordinance), reduce current fees required for business and development, and improve the response time for permitting.
- One suggestion for Planning Department improvement on the subject of timeliness is a “one stop” permit assistance and coordination office. The NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) (local office, 623-6748) has long been recognized among developers as an overzealous guardian of the environment and judged as harshly statewide as the Cary Planning Department is locally. They are often seen as unreasonable obstructionists to economic progress. DENR is not about to yield its statutory environmental protection role but it is out to prove that it is capable of working with developers for progress. They have established “One Stop” Permit Assistance and Coordination offices across the state and have instituted fast-track permitting processes for time-critical projects. Perhaps Cary could adopt the DENR model.
- Another idea is to contract with an independent ombudsman who will help guide the developers through the regulation maze and will investigate and negotiate complaints lodged by developers.
- Adopt tourism as a priority strategy for Cary economic development. Tourism as economic development received scant attention from participants in this study. Most of those who commented did so negatively stating that there is no organization with responsibility for tourism and there is little Cary tourism promotion. Confirming those opinions, Sanford Holshouser’s attempts to find Cary tourism information by searching for generic web addresses such as “Visit Cary NC,” and following it with a search for “Cary NC Tourism,” and other variations, did not bring up a “take charge” website offering the typical tourist information package for a community. Persistence, however, would eventually lead a tourist to the “Cary, Now!” website, which is an excellent site for tourists interested in Cary. Still, Cary needs more than a website. It needs a tourism advocate. We believe Cary is well suited for Active Lifestyle Tourism as discussed below.
Outdoor tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the industry. It includes picnicking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, hunting, fishing, biking, hiking, bird watching, golfing, and other activities involving the simple enjoyment of nature, most of which are available in Cary’s fine parks or nearby Lake Jordan and Umstead State Parks. By seeking state park cooperation, those outdoor tourism attractions could be combined with the Town’s own parks and recreation in a tourism marketing emphasis. Cary can act as base camp and provide less rugged accommodations for those so inclined.
- Assign the Cary Parks and Recreation Director the responsibility of incorporating outdoor recreation into all regional and local promotional materials.
- Inventory outdoor recreation assets.
- Enlist local cycling clubs, bird watching groups and other outdoor recreation groups to help with the identification and inventorying process.
Sports tourism is another opportunity for attracting people interested in the active lifestyle. Sports and facilities are already well-established in Cary. Excellent golf courses are available locally. The USA Baseball program is a great, family-oriented draw for the Town as are the State Games to be hosted by the Town again in 2006. The SAS championship soccer facility, now home to minor league soccer, and the aquatics center are additional sports tourism opportunities.. Other youth sports tournaments such as AAU basketball draw visitors to enterprising municipalities across the US. Cary’s promotion of sports development should not be slowed down, but consideration should be given to marketing sports facilities in the region for large multi-venue events. The Cary Sports Commission concept may have potential in this regard.
Historical Tourism is a questionable fit for Cary, because so few historical sites, points of interest, or even bed and breakfast inns show up on Internet search engines. Enlist the local historical society (if there is one, it remains hidden from search engines) or organize some history buffs. Many of the action items below fall within the expertise of historical societies, museums, etc.
- Inventory heritage tourism assets.
- Focus on Cary’s beginnings. The fact that Cary was named for a Civil War Union General is an historical oddity that should encourage research.
- Encourage Bed and Breakfast establishments in the older homes especially in the downtown area.
- Ensure that Cary heritage tourism is consistently included in all regional and local marketing programs and materials.
- Include Cary heritage tourism sites as part of a heritage trail through the Town. Place historical markers at the sites.
- Schedule periodic tours of historic homes in Town.
- Study the highest and best use of current and potential historical buildings to give direction to agencies and groups in charge of redeveloping such structures.
Sanford Holshouser recommends that the Chamber, with Town support, assumes responsibility for tourism in Cary and institute a vigorous, upbeat program.
- Study highest and best use. Smart growth in Cary will require a review of the highest and best use of properties. There are almost certainly properties that are underutilized and areas conducive to in-fill development. Sustainable development practices call for Cary to go beyond this economic development study and further examine areas of Cary that could be redeveloped, that are suitable for higher density development, and that are underutilized. Such areas could be redesignated for modern business uses.
- Support and guide volunteer beautification projects. This recommendation is not meant to criticize local beautification efforts. Cary is recognized as a lovely place, and Sanford Holshouser encourages full support of the effort. Displaying flowers, plants and general landscaping downtown and at other strategic places in Town is important to economic development, because it contributes to the favorable impression that prospective companies see when they visit. The Town horticulturist should work with local garden clubs on a well-planned scheme to show off the town year around. The Department of Transportation has recognized Cary High School’s Kiwanis Key Club for over 15 years of Adopt A Highway work in Town. The Town Council should showcase the Key Club and encourage similar work among the 80 or so civic groups in Cary.
- Jump into the Retirement Industry. There was some local interest in the retirement as an economic development strategy. Sanford Holshouser recommends that the Town and Chamber look closely at what an easy fit the retirement industry is for Cary. By concentrating on the amenities that improve the local quality of life for all citizens and by paying some special attention to the needs and desires of seniors, Cary could gain more affluent, well-educated new citizens, the first of the baby boomer retirees, many of whom will remain economically active in retirement. For example, the health care industry goes hand in hand with attracting retirees, but it also means improved services for the existing local populace. Cary can target retirees just as it does selected industries. Retirees become good neighbors who buy or build new homes, who shop downtown, who operate home-office businesses, who make little demand on the Town for services such as schools, who volunteer in civic causes, and in general, who help to improve the community. Dr. Charles Longino, a Wake Forest University professor recognized as a national expert on retirement, long ago dispelled the false notion that retirees are a drag on the economy. A presentation to the Town and Chamber by the professor would be an excellent starting point for pursuing the retirement industry for Cary. Like tourism, retirement industry proponents need a home. We recommend the Chamber.
- Review Incentive Policies. A majority of participants in this study who were asked about this subject agreed that Cary should have an incentive policy, which it does. The Town has successfully negotiated incentive contracts in the past. Given the current lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of Dell’s incentive package, Sanford Holshouser recommends that the Town of Cary review its incentive policy to ensure that it provides strictly for performance-based incentives to targeted businesses. Avoid policies that suggest incentives are quid pro quo for tax payments by the company. A formal incentive policy helps the Town Council focus on key considerations before being caught up in negotiations for a specific project. It is not enough just to say no to incentives. (For example, extending a water line that benefits a new company is an incentive.) The incentive policy should include the following:
The policy should be specific enough so that everyone understands how and under what circumstances incentives will be offered, but flexible enough to allow for negotiations.
It should be designed to meet the economic development goals of the community by defining what types of industries, job categories, and levels of investment would qualify for the program.
After negotiations, a signed performance agreement between the company and the Town will provide safeguards regardless of whether the incentive funds and concessions are public or private.
It should set performance milestones that the company will be required to meet before any incentives are paid.
It should also list appropriate uses of the incentives and provide for claw-backs (restitution) should the company not meet its goals or close a deal within a certain time.
Any effective incentive policy must apply to existing industry expansions just as it does to new plant locations, or perhaps even more favorably, recognizing the local companies’ contributions to the quality of life in Cary. An existing industry has a choice of where to locate its expansion just as a new industry does. Overlooking existing industry expansions in an incentive policy leaves an obvious gap that will not sit well with local industries.
Incentive policies should identify ways to have public input without jeopardizing the recruitment process. Sanford Holshouser, LLP, could conduct a full review and update of the Town’s incentive policy.
- Do Not Ignore the Service Sector. Over the next six years, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 95 percent of the new jobs created in the US will be in the service sector. Obviously, this does not mean that Cary’s target list should include only the service sector. On the other hand, the Town’s economic developer should pay close attention to the health care industry, which is growing rapidly in Cary (over a 38 percent rise in the number of physicians, 1999-2004 and an $80 million expansion of Wake Med Cary Hospital). The five job creation sectors that will grow by over 2 million positions each are:
Education and health
Professional and business
- State and local government
Leisure and hospitality
- Retail trade
- Adopt the Industry Sector Targets. Whittaker Associates has conducted a Target Industry Analysis (TIA) for Cary recommending industry sectors that most closely match the Town’s assets. Target industry studies examine all industry and business sectors, not simply services or manufacturing.. A description of each of these industry sectors is provided in the TIA section and appendices. The Town should share the targeting information with WCED asking that the identified markets be merged with Wake County targets. The recommended target industry sectors are:
Medical Devices and Instruments
If Cary is the perfect place for new business and industry, and if the Town has sites, buildings, infrastructure, quality of life, leadership, workforce, and tourism attractions, who knows about it? The economic development world that should know about Cary includes:
- The target industry and business sectors identified for the Town by Whittaker Associates in the previous section of this plan.
- Corporate real estate executives of those companies.
- Site selection consultants who work with those companies.
- State, regional and county developers who market for economic development in their respective areas of responsibility and who may deliver prospective companies to the Town.
- County commissioners and the county manager who are likely to collaborate with the Town in negotiating incentives (or not) for prospective companies.
- The media, especially the business media and publications that focus on Cary’s targeted industry sectors, but also the local media.
- The tourism media that is always searching for that perfect, secret town with a story to tell its readers. This fits Cary!
- And last, but actually first, the Town’s citizens who must understand and agree with the leadership’s economic development goals in order for the Town to be successful.
How do we make sure that the economic development world knows about Cary? The answer is marketing. In developing the Town’s marketing recommendations, Sanford Holshouser has used our six partners’ accumulated knowledge of best practices in economic development marketing at local, regional, national, and international levels. The results are provided in this basic plan, but this is only the beginning of marketing. If our recommendations are followed, Cary’s final marketing plan will be much more deeply researched and integrated into the continuing planning process, but it will not exclude the elements of marketing presented here.
Sanford Holshouser recommends that the Town look inward first, reaching consensus on how it wants to be perceived. For example, do Cary citizens really want their town to become a tourist destination for sports-minded kids and their families? Second, develop a plan based on the Cary vision and gain approval from the community at large; and third, armed with an agreed-upon strategy, reach out to the world with a targeted approach. The following paragraphs offer guidelines for marketing the Town of Cary beginning with a hard look at internal marketing.
Internal Marketing Strategies
The Cary internal marketing program should be a communications plan designed to influence public opinion in favor of the Town’s economic development effort. The Town should seek to gain support and funding from the public and private leadership. The Town should consistently inform its citizens about current economic development activities. Too often excellent programs die from lack of public support because the public never knew what was going on.
Before moving into the Sanford Holshouser recommendations, the reader should understand that we are skipping one step in the planning process-- visioning and branding. We have omitted it only because we know that Cary has been diligent in accomplishing this most important phase of internal marketing. Visioning defines how people work together to make things happen, and it defines leadership principles. Branding is synthesizing all of those characteristics into an image that is projected locally and to the outside world through intensive, consistent marketing. We recommend that visioning and branding sessions be conducted regularly, that the Town proudly and consistently markets its brand and that Cary does not let the vision die.
- Adopt an Economic Development Public Relations Program. Applicable both to external marketing and internal marketing, the Town’s public relations program or campaign will help carry the vision and brand to local citizens as well as the outside world. In effect, the public relations director must wear an economic developer hat. The campaign should be reviewed and perhaps reinvented frequently but should stay in keeping with the visioning and branding process. While public relations is a broad field, Sanford Holshouser has focused its recommendations more narrowly on the economic development aspects. If the PR Director is already overwhelmed with Town duties, the economic development tasks could be outsourced to a professional PR firm as is done in many cities. These duties are to articulate and disseminate news about the Town’s economic development operations, plans, calendars, successes, and even failures (“We tried!”).
- The PR Director should keep every business association and civic club in Town informed about the campaign and enlist their cooperation. Ask the clubs to use the Town’s theme and tag line in all their correspondence and materials. Positive publicity from as many sources as possible is one of the most effective means of marketing for business recruitment.
- Following are some suggestions, all of which are important for keeping citizens informed about economic development in Cary:
- Make sure that the local newspaper is involved in the planning process and is always kept fully informed about what is going on and why. Talk to the editor and business editor and openly request cooperation.
- Include a section in the new website (recommended below) for local business and industry. The business and industry section should list information that existing businesses would find useful such as contacts for Town services, frequently asked questions or concerns, posting of regulatory information and contacts for Town, Wake County and State government.
- Report promptly and accurately any business expansion, new store or service, and any development opportunity in Cary (or in the area - always remember, if it is close and it is nice, it is part of Cary). Publish a quarterly newsletter about economic development or include the information as an “Economic Development Section” of the Town’s regular newsletter.
- Network. The Public Relations Director should network with business editors of local and regional newspapers, business journals, magazines and other media, as well as the editors of local newsletters such as the Chamber of Commerce and the downtown organization. Remember, they are economic development organizations too.
- Compile Data Sheets. Make sure facts and data are available to the media on-line and in hard copy handouts. Update the on-line data as well. Get rid of any hard copies lying around that have not been revised, and remind people who keep them on hand (Chamber, etc.) to replace their old data sheets with the new one. Bad data is worse than no data at all.
- Initiate an annual Business Appreciation Week. Sanford Holshouser has recommended that Cary institute an Existing Business Retention and Expansion Program celebrating the importance of the Town’s major private sector employers. It should be highly publicized. For example, Business Appreciation Week promotions should include resolutions of appreciation, coordinated business and industry open house events, media releases, and newspaper ads thanking the companies and employees, and a luncheon with golf for executives of the companies.
- Advocate for business. The Town and Chamber should frequently publicize the fact that they are advocates for existing local business, large and small, and provide evidence that the BRE program is working well. Referring prospective entrepreneurs to a local business incubator, providing a list of lending resources, and showing off a “No Red Tape” one-stop permitting agency are examples of Town advocacy. The Chamber should parallel the Town’s effort with its small business start-up assistance programs.
External Marketing Strategies
Broad economic development marketing on behalf of Cary is conducted by DOC, RTRP, and WCED (through the Raleigh Chamber). This marketing is designed to bring potential industry and business to North Carolina, the RTRP region, and Wake County respectively, not specifically to Cary. Yet the Town benefits from the effort, and there is no reason for Cary to spend money duplicating those marketing programs. Some Cary-specific marketing is already conducted by the Cary Chamber and, appropriately, is aimed more toward small business development. Cary needs a concentrated economic development marketing program targeted at the type of companies it wishes to attract. The recommendations that follow are designed to be carried out by the primary economic development organization in Cary (see Sanford Holshouser’s recommendations for “Reorganize for Economic Development” above). We suggest a purposeful campaign with a consistent message and a “never give up attitude.”
- Develop an Economic Development Website: Sanford Holshouser found that the Town and the Chamber websites are not designed adequately for economic development purposes. A typical developer looking for hard data on Cary may Google “Cary NC Economic Development” which will not provide a lead in the first four pages that come up. Guessing that the Town runs its own economic development program, the developer may go back to try “Cary NC” which brings up first, the Town site and second, the Chamber site. The Town site makes the developer guess that data is under “Doing Business” which leads him to the EDC, but the page simply tells about the EDC. . If the developer doesn’t give up and go to another town, he may try the Chamber site. The Chamber page yields five choices under “Economic Development,” none of which provide the typical data developers need. There isn’t even a link to DOC’s “Buildings and Sites” website. Following are Sanford Holshouser’s website recommendations:
Resolve that Cary will have a five-star website designed for economic development purposes alone. Among the best examples of economic development websites nationwide are Fairfax County, VA (www.fairfaxcountyeda.org), Randolph County, NC (www.rcedc.com), Huntsville, AL (www.huntsvillealabamausa.com), Danville, VA (www.discoverdanville.com), and the State of North Dakota (www. growingnd.com). The main point is that no site selection consultant, searching for information on Cary, should have to jump through hoops to figure out where the economic development data may be hidden.
Tailor the economic development pages to provide the hard data most often asked for by the consultants. Ask WCED what data is most frequently requested by their clients and post it. Use data from this plan, other Cary plans, planning department data, and basic research. In all cases, of course, keep it current.
o Bullet the Town’s best points prominently. The economic development pages should be famous for its information, not bells and whistles.
Offer Cary-specific data when available. List data for the next levels (e.g., Wake County, RTP region, then State) when the local data is not available. Breaking out Cary school data from Wake County data takes some digging, but it is worthwhile to emphasize the accomplishments of Cary schools.
Provide links to WCED and other economic development related sites but the Town site should concentrate first on Cary with data, data, data …then links.
- Create a buzz. When Cary launches its economic development site, make it a promotional event. Promote the site in the newsletter, brochures, local and regional image magazines, business journals and postcards to site selection consultants, developers and corporate real estate executives. Be persistent in promoting the website.
- Link seamlessly to DOC’s “Buildings and Sites” pages, but make sure Cary buildings and sites are posted through WCED. This is an excellent, inexpensive means of marketing the Town’s buildings and sites. Most site consultants will look for sites and buildings through this website. Four points are important here:
- Eighty-five percent of companies searching for a new location are looking for an available building, meaning that Cary must post all of its buildings. As of January 20, there were only six listed with DOC.
- When you spot a building or site that is not on the DOC list, bird-dog it until you get the listing. Some Realtors will never have heard of the DOC site.
- Keep the sites and buildings information complete and up-to-date.
- Currently, Cary’s listings are indistinguishable from others in Wake County unless the name “Cary” appears in the building or site title. Title each building and site with the preface “Cary.”
- Develop information for a section on “Local Business and Industry.” Provide a list of the companies located in Cary with their industry sectors. The Town’s cluster of high tech companies will be attractive to similar companies that may be searching.
- Feature a picture and testimonial from an industry, business, small business, or community leader on every page of the website touting the benefits of doing business in Cary.
- Provide information on Town services, incentives, zoning for industry, and regulations.
- Add an “Entrepreneur’s Section” on the website and include a resource directory similar to that shown in the “Small Business” Recommendations above. Link to the small business section of the Chamber.
- Place a “Click Here for Contact” on each page of the website. The contact info should include the name and contact information for the Executive Director. This is no ego trip but an important service to a busy consultant who, when looking for something on the website, can immediately contact someone by name to follow up on the information. Consultants often surf sites at night, so if you want to impress them, add “Call me anytime” and list your home number.
- Keep in mind, site selection consultants are looking for an excuse to narrow down their search and will simply drop Cary if information on the Town is not easily obtained.
- School Information. The Wake County School Board has an excellent website for data on individual schools. The trouble for Cary is that when a site selection consultant goes to the School Board website for information on Cary schools (and that is one of the first things he will look for), he cannot easily distinguish between a Cary school and a Wake Forest school. This information needs to be broken out for Cary and placed on the economic development website (linked also from the Town and Chamber sites). Add a summary description of local schools and their accomplishments. Cary schools have a great story to tell, so brag!
Use this check list for items that the economic development web site should contain:
- Complete site map
- Directory of available buildings and sites (link DOC “Building and Sites” through WCED)
- Provide other links to Town of Cary, Chamber, School Board, WTCC, WCED, RTRP, DOC, and other allies.
- Demographic information (lots of data presented in different ways)
- Information on available incentives
- An industry or business executive’s testimony on each economic development page touting the benefits of operating in the Town
- Friendly, personal, local contact information, e.g.,
“Please call me today, any time.”
(Name of the Town officer responsible for economic development)
(Telephone, address and e-mail)
- Communicate and cooperate with WCED for marketing. Although involvement in marketing with WCED is much less expensive to accomplish than the Town acting alone, the result will not be a Cary-only prospect. Leads developed by WCED will be shared with all the municipalities in Wake County that meet the companies’ requirements, which in some cases will not include Cary Cooperating with WCED, nevertheless, shows the Town’s commitment to regional economic development and will pay dividends down the road. WCED is in a much better position to accomplish most of the best practices in marketing, including international marketing. The Town should also offer cooperation and assistance in implementing the county marketing plan. The Town can offer knowledgeable volunteer business executives (Cary Ambassadors) to talk to appropriate prospects or occasionally to accompany WCED representatives on sales trips to targeted industries. Regardless of whether Cary conducts its own marketing program, it should share its recommended target markets with WCED. Finally, the Town should not forget that the most important element of economic development is developing “product” that meets the needs of the identified targets. The most professional marketing scheme is worthless if the product is not in place when the prospect comes to Town.
- Do more economic development marketing. Showing off Cary properly can be a full-time job. Whether economic development responsibilities remain with the Chamber or shifts to a separate organization, the Town’s economic development agency will have its hands full to accomplish the following recommendations:
Develop marketing and client response materials. Sanford Holshouser recommends inexpensive folders as a means of having response materials on hand for the business inquiries received by the Town and Chamber.
Create and update, no less than every sixth months, a Town Profile. Community profiles typically are quick-look brochures, some as small as one page front-back, that list critical economic development information on the Town..
Furnish a limited number of copies of the Profile to organizations (chamber, WCED etc.) that may respond to requests for information on Cary, but make sure the old copies are destroyed when replaced with more recent data sheets. Old data is worse than no data.
Create a slick but inexpensive folder with the Town’s logo (or original design clearly indicating that the folder contains economic development information about the Town of Cary). Produce data sheets in-house, store them in the computer and continuously update them. Print out the data sheets as needed and fit them inside the folder for clients. Tailor the information folder specifically for each client. This creates a professional, customized client response package. Add the Town Profile as a summary sheet. Cover it with a welcoming letter from the Mayor.
Publish a Cary image magazine and/or develop one in cooperation with the County or Chamber. If it is a County product, make sure Cary is featured prominently. Include the magazine in client response packages.
Conduct Target Industry Marketing in cooperation with WCED and RTRP. Based in part on Sanford Holshouser’s assessment, Whittaker Associates has recommended the following industry sectors as preferred targets for Cary’s marketing program: Medical Devices and Instruments, Light Manufacturing, Biotechnology/R&D, and Design (see the Target Industry Analysis section and the appendices of this plan). Work with the ally organizations listed above to develop marketing programs in Cary’s target industry sectors. Understand that target marketing is grueling work but Cary has a lot to offer these industry and business segments. They need to know that.
Market to site selection consultants. These are the professionals who represent companies looking for sites to open new businesses or industries. Again, this is typically not a technique used by individual municipalities but is more suited to a county or regional effort. Moreover, the preparations require product. There must be something to show when the consultant visits. Nevertheless, with a concentrated effort, Cary could market directly to the site selection consultant community. This means collecting contact information on the consultants. The regional partnership and WCED list is available to the Town. Sanford Holshouser recommends cross-referencing the databases to ensure it has a complete list. Cary then can schedule visits to the consultants and put them on the direct mail, newsletter, and annual report mailing list. If the budget can take the hit, invite the consultants to a Cary familiarization tour with wine and roses hospitality. This tactic is better accomplished through WCED, however.
Market to DOC. When the Town has developed product (sites and buildings), the Department of Commerce needs to know more about Cary and what it has to show. Every State developer is a potential link to Cary’s next new industry. Coordinate the following activity with WCED and the regional DOC office. Either participate with WCED or make a Cary-specific presentation to DOC at a regular Monday morning staff meeting. Schedule a fifteen to twenty minute brief on buildings, sites, program initiatives and other economic development related items. Follow the morning brief with a networking lunch. (Picnics or casual lunches reportedly are preferred by staff rather than formal lunches.) The Town could also host a DOC Economic Development Day (again, more appropriately, with WCED). Conduct a community familiarization tour of buildings, sites and community amenities. Include a presentation about development opportunities in Cary and a facility tour. Repeat the event every two to three years as new developments warrant.
- Enlist the help of local business executives as recruiters. During calls on local industries and businesses, ask the CEO, president or other officers who travel nationally and internationally to act as “Cary Ambassadors,” suggesting that their suppliers, vendors and other business contacts consider Cary as a location for a branch of their companies. These are some of the duties of Ambassadors:
- Distribute Cary marketing materials at trade shows or similar events.
- Co-host breakfasts, lunches or dinners with Town economic development officials, to meet the companies’ suppliers and vendors.
- Join with the Town to place advertisements in targeted trade journals.
- Ask colleagues, customers and suppliers for leads on companies considering a new location.
- Market Cary for tourism development. Tourism (including the aspects discussed below) is one of Cary’s best opportunities, but it needs a home and a leader. Look for leaders who believe in the tourism industry for Cary. Tourism appears to be a naturally favorable business for the town, yet to be successful, the impetus for growing the hospitality industry must come from a well-organized, local group with enthusiastic leadership. Here are some ways to get on the NC tourism map:
- Work more closely with the Greater Raleigh Convention and Tourism Bureau. Currently, their website does little to let visitors know anything about Cary. Eventually there is a link to the Chamber website, but the system of leading visitors to Cary needs work.
- Get involved with Cary Now! Its website appears to be the most complete activity guide for Cary and the region, yet it is not an easy website to find.
- Establish relationships with NC Travel and Tourism and keep them informed on Cary’s assets, programs, and calendars for tourists. Invite them for a familiarization tour of Cary to view firsthand the potential for tourism development.
- Consider joining the Southeast Tourism Society (www.southeasttourism.org). STS is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to the development of industry organizations and professionals and to the promotion of tourism. It encourages sharing resources, fostering cooperation, networking, providing continuing education, cooperative marketing, consumer outreach, advice and consultation, governmental affairs and other programs. Work to get one of Cary’s festivals listed in STS’ “Top 20 Events” in the southeast.
- Integrate a tourism section into the new economic development website. Tourism should have its own link button on the Town and Chamber websites. Position a reference to the website on the search engines (Google, Ask Jeeves, etc.), so that when “Cary,” “Wake County,” or “North Carolina Tourism” is entered for a search, the list shows Cary’s website in its first page of listings, preferably at the top.
- Make presentations to the first line of welcome in NC tourism, the state women’s prison. The women’s prison answers the “1-800-Visit NC” hotline. Take them a nice lunch to eat while they listen to the attributes of Cary.
- Create an advertising budget for occasional small ads in publications that promote tourism such as Our State and Southern Living. Co-op advertising through Southeast Tourism Society programs helps make it affordable.
Measuring the Effectiveness of the Marketing Plan
The final measure of the marketing effort is whether Cary gained business and industry investments and jobs. However, there are other measurements of program improvement that eventually will yield those investments and jobs. For example, did the Town improve on its product offered? Did it help retain existing jobs that might have gone elsewhere or gone under? Did it help improve the workforce in readiness for attracting the new economy companies?
Each marketing initiative should be evaluated based the on the total resources spent on the effort versus the result (numbers of leads, expansions, articles promoting the region, etc.). Here are some examples of yardstick measurements:
Town Council, Administration and Public Relations
- Town Council adopts Strategic Economic Development Plan
- Town establishes Strategic Plan implementation schedule
- Town funds new position of Economic Development Director as a full-time employee
- Economic Development Director charged with additional duties as economic development public information officer
- Director hires Existing Industry Coordinator
- Existing industry program developed and initiated
- Number of Strategic Plan recommendations implemented
- Level of local government funding for economic development
- Number of positive news articles on economic development activities
- Number of legitimate inquiries
- Number of leads
- Leads developed into clients
- Number of client visits
- Number of new companies
- Total new jobs
- Total new investment
Existing Business Support
- Number of businesses visited
- Number of businesses assisted
- Number of local expansions
- Total New Investment
- New jobs created
- Existing jobs retained
- Did the intervention stop a closing
- Special events hosted
- Existing industry executives recruited as ambassadors
- Is the private sector participating in and helping fund economic development
- Infrastructure improvement projects
- Sites developed
- Sites certified by DOC
- Business park developed
- New buildings (or virtual building) available
- Street, highway, rail, airport, gas, telecommunications improvements
The Town of Cary already possesses most of the desirable features that other towns are trying to develop: a well-educated, affluent citizenry with excellent leadership in government and civic affairs; a strong chamber of commerce; superior schools where students excel; about 80 active civic clubs and non-profit, charitable organizations; beautiful homes in well-kept neighborhoods; 1,550 acres of parks and greenways plus nearby Jordan Lake Recreation Area and Umstead State Park; recreational facilities worthy of any large city, including the USA Baseball Park and SAS Champion Tour soccer; numerous shopping centers, restaurants, theaters and entertainment venues; and an excellent variety of cultural arts programs. Cary’s central location within the metropolitan hub of Raleigh and Durham and quick access to RDU further enhance the Town’s choices of entertainment, sports, museums, art galleries, upscale shopping and fine dining as well as high-paying employment.
Sanford Holshouser believes that Cary is in a position to retain its small town appeal while building on its strengths and opportunities. In economic development terms, as well as in quality of life, Cary is a leading light for North Carolina.