Economic Development Updates/Amazon Proposal
New opportunities and exciting growth within the Town of Cary made it a highly productive quarter. We ended the quarter hopeful for potential projects, breaking ground on new projects, and celebrating those we completed.
- Cary Economic Development worked closely with regional and state partners to submit a competitive proposal to Amazon as the company searches for a site to develop a second corporate headquarters (HQ2). Over the next 10 years, Amazon expects to create 50,000 new jobs with an average salary of $100,000 a year and invest 5 billion in capital expenditures. Amazon received 238 proposals; no date has been set for an announcement of which communities will proceed to the next level for further consideration.
- Swedish company Höganäs held a ribbon cutting in October for its Business Area Environmental division, which aims to improve water purification and soil remediation techniques. Höganäs will use its Cary location to lead the global commercialization of a technology that uses iron particles to remove contaminants such as heavy metals from water and soil. It plans to hire 100 employees over the next two years.
- In October, MetLife held a groundbreaking for a third building on its campus. Highwoods Properties will build another 217,000 square feet of office space for the company, which is bringing an additional 500 new jobs to Cary. In addition to council members, Senators Burr and Tillis, Congressmen Price and Holding, and Governor Cooper attended the groundbreaking.
- Spectrum Properties has broken ground on Regency Woods II, their newest building in Regency Park. The 150,000 square foot Class A building will overlook Symphony Lake and provide much-needed office space in Cary. Demand is such that the building was already two-thirds leased when ground was broken.
Get to Know Cary, NC
The Town expanded its support of the SAS Championship this year by producing and airing a 60-second television commercial several times during the tournament on the Golf Channel. The spot, “Get to Know Cary,” focused on why Cary is a great place for businesses like SAS and encouraged viewers to visit a special website created as part of the project: www.gettoknowcarync.com. The commercial was well-received, especially by our colleagues at SAS.
To increase the return on this $20,000 investment, the commercial and website have been edited slightly to allow for continued utilization for economic development purposes.
New Businesses Announced, Opened, or Making Progress
- Southern Studio Interior Design hosted an open house after they made a residential-to-commercial transformation of a 1951 brick home at 119 W. Park Street. They relocated their studio from downtown Apex to downtown Cary.
- Annelore’s German Bakery hosted an open house on December 14. Their official opening was held on December 16.
- Financial Risk Group held a ground breaking on the renovation of their new location at 264 W. Chatham Street.
- Postmaster, SideBar, Hustle, Sams-Jones House Lease Approval, Blue Cross Blue Shield Retail, CASTO, and Raleigh Cary Realty all opened or announced plans for opening.
Outreach and/or Presentations
Over the course of the second quarter, the Downtown Development Manager had the opportunity to present to a wide range of groups about the development activity happening in Downtown Cary. Some of those groups included the following:
- Triangle Business Journal SPACE Live Event
- AIA Triangle Downtown Tour
- Fonville Morisey Raleigh Office Presentation
- Cary Rotary Club Presentation
- Heart of Cary Association Presentation
Notable Commercial Permits
During Q2, the Town approved 35 development plans. Thirteen of these were for commercial development and two were for office. Both the total number of development plans as well as the number of commercial and office approvals were in line with previous quarters.
The size of the development allowed with these approvals was higher than previous quarters. This was driven largely by the approval of the 527,400 square feet of office and life care facility that was associated with HealthPark at Kildaire (located on the Guernsey Trail site), and the 159,500 square feet of office space approved with Regency Woods II.
Employee Recognition Reception and Luncheon: Celebrating the Best
The Town’s annual Employee Recognition Reception and Employee Luncheon featured new and exciting ways to honor staff. The two gatherings were enjoyed by hundreds of employees.
In a “OneCary” effort, employees stepped up and contributed both time and expertise to various aspects of the programs — from designing publicity materials to coordinating prizes and event design to even arranging for bus shuttles on a bitter autumn afternoon so that employees could easily get to the Cary Arts Center for the reception.
The weather outside may have been frightful, but that didn’t stop around 300 employees from gathering in the Cary Arts Center on November 8, 2017 to celebrate 186 service award recipients and 11 Employee of the Year nominees. A revamped program made this afternoon a huge success. Delicious food, service award booths, and a photo mirror with props honored those employees celebrating 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years with the Town. All 11 Employee of the Year nominees were also recognized with a special video during the program. Employees appreciated the chance to socialize and congratulate their coworkers at this fun event.
On December 6, nearly 700 guests — including Cary’s Mayor, all Town Council members, and a seemingly endless lunch line of co-workers and retirees — enjoyed camaraderie as they celebrated at the Employee Luncheon. The Town hailed Mary Beerman of Planning and Charles Massey of Police-ECO as dual Employee of the Year winners. Also acknowledged were employees who reached milestone service anniversaries, along with a large cadre of retirees.
A robust collaboration between Human Resources and several other departments created a joyful event that included interactive contests, arcade games, floor pianos, and other surprises.
Employee Retention for Calendar Year 2017
The Town works hard to retain the most creative, innovative, and citizen-service focused employees by offering extraordinary benefits and compensation programs, positive employee relations, and employee recognition strategies and celebrations. To continue retaining the best employees, it is important to develop insights into its data as well as strategies to sustain this high level of retention.
A review of employee data for 2017 shows an impressive employee retention rate of 92 percent, which equates to eight percent turnover.
The Town’s turnover rate has trended upward during the past five years. This rate alone doesn’t hold any value until coupled with a review of the reasons for this increase, which helps determine if there are opportunities for improvement.
In 2017, the primary factor driving turnover was employee service retirements, constituting one-third of the employees leaving the Town. The Town predicted an increase in retirements more than six years ago, and this trend is expected to continue in 2018. Retirements are generally considered positive and unavoidable turnover; however, they require an increased focus on succession planning, training, and knowledge retention. Resignations constituted 57.5 percent of turnover, which is lower than in recent past years.
A further review of retirements shows that almost half — over 44 percent — of the 2017 retirements came from our public safety departments.
Viewed as a whole, Human Resources uses this annual turnover data to devise employee retention plans and strategies. As we move into 2018, the Town will continue its current workforce and succession planning efforts in the public safety areas along with all other areas of the Town. These efforts will help ensure that we are recruiting and developing the very best talent possible, which HR considers to be a key component in creating the local government that doesn’t exist.
One Year After: An Update on Paid Parental Leave
On January 5, 2017, Council approved a six-week Paid Parental Leave Program for eligible employees. This program helps adapt our practices to meet the demands of an ever-changing workforce and enrich our comprehensive and competitive benefits package.
Now in practice for nearly a year, employees are embracing this opportunity to spend more time at home with their children and create a healthy work-life balance for new parents.
Human Resources is working collaboratively with employees and departments across the organization to facilitate this program, yielding interesting utilization statistics for this first year. Primarily, paid parental utilization along gender lines closely mirrors our employee breakdown of 80 percent male/20 percent female.
Compared to other Town benefits, administering the program carries few costs beyond regularly budgeted salaries. Departments are addressing the absence of colleagues through collaboration, process review and creative solutions using a OneCary philosophy.
The support and approval of this family-related program have benefited the employees involved, and will continue to benefit us all, as we foster a family-supportive workplace culture while continuing to attract top talent and achieve our goal of becoming the local government that doesn’t exist.
Facing Our Challenges in Hiring Police Officers
Our challenge to hire quality police officers is not unique. On any given day, a search for posted Police Officer jobs on nationwide job search website Indeed.com will yield around 150 police agencies across North Carolina seeking to hire at least one to two officers. The larger police departments have openings that they will likely not fill in the near future due to both the shortage of qualified applicants and the competing demand to fill vacancies across the state. All of the agencies in the Triangle area compete for the same hiring pool of qualified applicants.
To add to the challenge, our applicants must complete Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) as a requirement for the job. Enrollment in Basic Law Enforcement Training has been down across North Carolina in the last few years. The number of students enrolled in Basic Law Enforcement Training courses across the state has decreased by nearly 20 percent from 2013–2015, according to the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education Training Standards Commission. Since January 2015, 23 training classes have been canceled due to low enrollment, according to data provided from the Commission. National media attention surrounding increased tensions between police departments and their communities has been cited as a contributing factor to a broad lack of interest in law enforcement as a career. All of this adds up to a much smaller pool of applicants and increased challenges in hiring not just qualified applicants, but highly qualified applicants that we strive to seek out for the Town of Cary.
To better compete for this smaller pool of highly qualified applicants, two of the larger neighboring police agencies funded a pay and class study of their departments to evaluate, and potentially increase, the starting salaries of their police officers. This started a chain reaction with many of the local police agencies to decide whether or not to increase their starting pay for police officers.
Upon completion of the pay and class study, the Town of Cary implemented a market increase, resulting in a minimum starting salary for Police Officers to $42,910.
Unfortunately, even with the market increase, our starting salary for police officers was still below the top starting pay among Wake County municipalities. To achieve the highest starting salary for police officers in our area, we granted an in-grade salary increase on August 1, 2017, which gave the Town of Cary the highest starting salary for police officers, which we currently maintain.
Recognizing that pay is only one component of a multi-faceted hiring solution, Human Resources collaborated with our Police Personnel Services Team on a strategic plan to identify opportunities to improve our current practices.
When our journey began in February 2017, we were already faced with a considerable number of vacancies. We realized that some of our previous hiring and recruiting practices had been in place for quite some time and did not provide us the adaptability to change with our applicant pool. In the past, we took for granted that hiring pools were large and that applicants had a desire to come to Cary to work regardless of how long the hiring process may take. Conversely, other police agencies responded to the smaller applicant pools by streamlining their recruitment process and were effectively able to make conditional offers of employment much earlier in the selection process than we were. We quickly realized we needed to evaluate our processes and to be agile in our hiring timelines when we found a highly qualified applicant that was a good fit for the Town of Cary.
So, How Did We Respond?
The hiring process for a sworn law enforcement officer involves a significant amount of vetting that, in some cases, can take several months. For example, a typical applicant, upon completion of a Town of Cary application, will be pre-screened and referred to our Police Recruiting/ Hiring Officer where, after additional screening, will be scheduled for up to three interviews with three different panels. Depending on a candidate’s success to that point in the process, applicants could receive a “conditional offer of employment” from the Chief of Police. What are those conditions? Under a conditional offer of employment, applicants must successfully pass an extensive background investigation, Computerized Voice Stress Analysis testing (CVSA, or lie detector testing), medical and psychological testing, and a physical abilities test. Due to requirements mentioned above, the length of the process itself can be a deterrent to potential applicants who are seeking immediate employment to support themselves and their families. The key to overcoming this challenge was to find ways to improve/streamline our process while still hiring the best qualified employees, something the Town of Cary prides itself on.
In the past, larger groups of newly hired officers were typically brought into the organization in the spring and fall each year. While this approach served us well in terms of planning for in-house orientation and field training, limiting the hiring window on what is already a lengthy process cost us potential candidates who were looking for immediate employment. Additionally, this approach left us with vacancies for longer periods of time.
We now run continuous advertising for hiring on a broad and diverse range of job search sites. Human Resources reviews applications daily and refers applicants that meet minimum standards. From there, the Police Recruiting/Hiring Sergeant schedules candidates for a series of interviews and directs them to our newly updated recruiting webpage on the Town’s website for a detailed breakdown of the application process, overview, and philosophy of the department, benefits information, and common questions.
Applicant interviews are now given priority on calendars at all levels. While in the past we would have to rely on the availability of two or three detectives to administer a lie detector exam, recruiting staff is now certified in the practice. On a side note, Cary Town Council recently approved the spending of federal drug forfeiture funds to purchase a second CVSA machine to help facilitate our efforts.
Finally, we have also made our vetting process more flexible, allowing us to schedule different steps simultaneously or address concerns sooner so exorbitant time and funding is not spent on candidates who are not qualified. Applicants who successfully complete the entire process then receive a two-week orientation before starting the Field Training Program. Barring any variables outside of our control, typically consisting of a candidate’s previous commitments, we have significantly reduced our hiring process from months to weeks.
How Did We Attract the Best Applicants in a Down Market?
It’s not just about money. Research shows that millennials and college-educated applicants want jobs that empower them to problem-solve and create positive change in their communities. In April 2017, we began a new branding campaign that highlights our philosophy of Geo Policing and strong commitment to our community. This involved updating our website, as well as creating multi-lingual recruiting brochures and flyers. These materials are distributed state-wide to all Basic Law Enforcement Training Academies, at local community events, and at career fairs at such colleges as Shaw, Campbell, Meredith, and East Carolina Universities. In addition, we are proud to announce the completion of our new recruiting video which embodies our commitment to service, teamwork and sense of community.
Lastly, we also recognize that our best recruiters are current employees who embody “The Cary Way,” so we worked with Human Resources to initiate an Employee Referral Program for the police officer position. To date, we have had three successful referrals.
Where Do We Stand in Q2?
We currently have one vacancy with multiple quality applicants in the recruiting pipeline, including two applicants that have received conditional offers of employment from Chief Godwin. Although we have enjoyed success in our hiring and recruiting efforts, we will remain cognizant of ever-changing trends that affect public safety recruiting and will continue to remain agile and adaptive in our quest to hire only the best officers for our community.