The Transylvania Times -

By Park Baker
Staff Writer 

TNRC Hears How County Is Marketed – Brevard NC


January 23, 2017

Josh Hallingse, director of the Transylvania Economic Alliance, recently spoke about his group’s marketing efforts at the regular Transylvania Natural Resources Commission meeting.

The Alliance is a public/private economic development entity that is largely funded by the county and governed by an 11-member board.

Hallingse had just returned from Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Outdoor Retailer show, marketing the county and the state with the Economic Development Partnership.

“They work big projects,” said Hallingse. “The idea being that we want to market ourselves at Outdoor Retailer, but we want to build relationships with people who are going to run those big projects, like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium and all those other clients we’re interested in bringing here. We’re about the promotion of a positive business climate. That story telling is about our natural resources here.

“When we went through our restructuring process in 2014, we found, what I think, are pretty accurate identifiers about our community, its strengths, quality of life, county-level incentives. Some of our weaknesses include poor product inventory — where can we physically locate companies within our communities? The workforce is also an identified weakness, but opportunities like tourism are directly tied to the natural resources.”

Target markets for the Alliance include beverages, outdoor gear manufacturing, organics, creative services, advanced manufacturing and tourism. All of those include leveraging natural resources.

“We generate a lot of leads from California, but the majority are from North Carolina,” Hallingse said. “We have had a pretty decent trend level of primarily German companies. We think that the community reminds them of the community they’re coming from in Germany. A high emphasis on natural amenities, greenways, and parks and public lands are an important component of those companies.”

Advanced manufacturing is the number one for lead generation, followed by food and organics, Hallingse said, while tourism is starting to trend up.

“We try to keep a handle on what type of companies are interested in the market,” he said. “Fifty-five percent of our leads come direct to our office, but we are seeing a lot from local allies like the Tourism Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce. Existing buildings is by far the leading request from us.

“They were a lot easier to come about when the economy was less stable, but there is not a lot of existing square footage from an industrial standpoint. There’s actually not a lot industrial space in the state at all, so it’s a challenge for us.”

Hallingse said having a relationship between tourism and economic development brings people here. It introduces the people to the county and opens the door to potentially relocating their business.

“The most common stories I hear is that I came to camp here, fell in love with it, and went home, went to school, opened a business and maybe I want to relocate it,” he said. “That camp story comes back a lot. The other component is that I came on vacation here, and I want to live here. That certainly drives our brand and awareness within the state.”

Jason Guidry, DuPont State Recreational Forest’s chief supervisor, asked Hallingse about his target markets and whether the beverage market was in a bubble with breweries.

“It seems like there is a lot of that,” Guidry said. “Is there a desire to go after more of that kind of thing or are you looking at emerging markets?”

Hallingse said it was a combination.

“We look at target market analysis, and we looked to a professional and looked at trends in private sector growth internationally — how does it match up to rural, tertiary markets like Transylvania County,” Hallingse said. “And then we also looked at what fits our existing companies here — what kind of suppliers and primary industry would be an asset. On the beverage side, we chase a lot of different type of companies within that industry. It could be something as simple as water or companies that perform science around the beverage. We have a handful of companies that perform here in bio-life sciences, who do some pharmaceutical related work.”

Hallingse said chasing industries that enhance what the county already has is a challenge.

“How do we make the most of existing zoning and leverage building opportunities that we do have that preserves the natural assets around the county but also gets the most out of them from a tax related standpoint,” he said.

Hallingse said any problems associated with natural resources and economic development were probably outside his area of expertise.

“But as the county grows, at a little less than 1 percent a year, we are going to see more and more pressures on our outdoor amenities because that’s what people do come here for,” he said. “So, how do we leverage our natural assets? How do you get more tax base out of it? How do you grow your sales tax, that can then be used to help offset some of those issues that are created by more use? Policies and procedures that help enhance those resources are something I would look to this council for feedback.”

Hallingse also mentioned the current effort, along with the county and the city, to build a shell building on Ecusta Road beside the Habitat Resale shop and opposite the former Ecusta site. He said the Alliance has solicited architectural services for the project.

Torry Nergart, with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, said he lives next to the former Ecusta site.

“I enjoy that fact that there will be building ordinances, as far as light pollution, noise pollution and vegetative screening,” he said. “My question is two part: What parts of the (city’s Unified Development Ordinance) UDO does the Alliance wish to see removed in respect to the fact that employers are looking to recruit employees that want access to our natural resources, via greenways, walkable streets and not living next to highways and byways? They want greenway access and complete streets. And the second part of my question is what does the Alliance do to promote within the county, via petitioning county commissioners, seeking grants, etc., to improve those amenities that employees and employers are looking for?”

Hallingse said he has learned that there might not be substantial changes to the UDO, but more about what the timeframe is to go through that process.

“I think one of the things that could be improved is trying to get more densities out of properties,” Hallingse said. “Can you get more dense properties on properties near those greenways? That might be important, and looking at landscaping, how does it play into the sidewalks and utility lines? How do you protect the longevity of the public infrastructure?

“One of the things that we often run into in Western North Carolina is topography. It often dictates how a site can be developed — positioning a building where it makes sense to pull trucks in and out, trying to plan around road building that can accommodate bigger trucks, and then when doing sidewalks how do you protect the uses like walking and Biking but accommodate material distribution.

“To answer the other part of the question, we don’t petition them directly. That’s primarily a function of the community development office. They do a lot as it relates to chasing those dollars. The City of Brevard does the same. We support those efforts with letters of support.”

TNRC member Ken Wilcox said that there is some logic as to what kind of manufacturing should go right across the street from natural resources, and asked Hallingse if he specified what would be the most appropriate for sites.

Hallingse said he did.

From a product development standpoint, he looks at it as if it were a private sector standpoint and what would be important to him from a location standpoint.

“That starts with developable property, landscapes, and access to roads, workforce and infrastructure,” he said. “Where do you have things like telecommunications, water, sewer, natural gas, etc., because we’re competing with other municipalities. It doesn’t make much sense to us to go about it differently.”

Hallingse said he had not yet done a retail analysis about businesses in the community. Hotels are interesting because they are very specific when they are looking for new sites.

“That’s one of our issues,” he said. “I think we have 400 or so rooms in the county, so that’s an issue for us.”

Another member of the audience asked if there were any updates on the former Ecusta property and the proposed Davidson River Village for the site, which is owned by Renova, a Massachusetts company .

“There are no specific updates on the Renova property,” said Hallingse. “The future home of the Davidson River Village, something that comes up in just about every meeting I am in, is what’s going on with that property. We would like to continue the conversation and make the property more marketable. We need a definitive package from that organization. Until we can assign a price and value of the property, we get a lot of interest from companies and they want to know what it’s priced at. We’re motivated.”

Nergart asked if Hallingse saw the property as a single unit or for parceling it out to multiple smaller businesses.

Hallingse said that size of the property dictates that it could take a variety of businesses and said that it could be both.

“If you had the right anchor tenant to make it worthwhile, you need something there that will set the tone for the rest of the property if you were to parcel it out,” he said.

TNRC member Pater Chaveas asked about collaboration with the Heart of Brevard (HOB).

He said that there seems to be an uptick of empty spaces on Main Street, but at the same time a brand new building is going up on Broad Street.

“I work closely with (Heath Seymour, the HOB executive director) and Jeremy Owen, a realtor in town,” Hallingse said. “We work together on a lot of different projects. If we have a client interested in commercial space or in a Main Street environment, we collaborate to find that existing square footage. The Alliance has a sites’ and buildings’ inventory on its website, so we’re working on how we can collaborate better and have the best package for potentials to look at.”

TNRC chair Lee McMinn said the only zoning in the county is in Brevard and asked Hallingse if he finds the absence of any kind of land-use planning in the county to be an impediment.

Land-use zones and planning are high up on the state’s list for industrial sites and parks and provide protection to would be businesses that want to locate here, McMinn said.

Hallingse said that the impediment he sees are water and sewer.

“We focus on the town of Rosman and Brevard because they have water and sewer,” he said. “It is very important just in determining what can be built on a piece of property. If you’re going to go above 10,000 square feet, you’re going to have to have some kind of sprinkler system in your building. You can’t do that without public water. Land use is important. There is a reason why we feel like the Jennings business park is successful. There’s a comfort level in co-location there with identified routes for trucks to get in and out, with neighbors next door that are similar uses. There’s water and sewer, and I think it is an attractive site. I do see some value, and it’s certainly not exclusive to Transylvania County. Anywhere you will see businesses clustering in business parks for the utilization of public and private infrastructure.”

Bart Renner, the county’s Cooperative Extension agent, asked Hallingse to elaborate on the food and organics part of his presentation.

Hallingse said he sees a lot of activity in food and organics, ranging from somebody that is making cookies who is trying to expand to using a commercial kitchen and all the way up to PharmAgra, a company based in Brevard that does research and development for large pharmaceutical companies all over the world.

“We capture them both,” he said. “In terms of our marketing approach, we do a variety of projects, like participating in food shows. We don’t just go and hang out at the food shows. We make phone calls, make connections. We make about 250 phone calls before we go to these events to connect with people who have interest in learning more about our community and our state. We also go to shows like Outdoor Retailer. That show is not just outdoor gear companies, but products there range from Clif Bar to chocolate companies who are trying to market themselves in that category as well. It crosses over many industries.”

Renner said that it seemed like the focus was more on bringing these companies into the area as opposed to focusing on some of the small farms that we have in the area. Hallingse said that it was a combination of both.

“We leverage our existing companies, and we have a business grant competition,” he said. “One of the winners was a local bee keeping operation that provides honey to a number of companies, including Sierra Nevada, so we try and leverage existing relationships to create new ones.”

More from the TNRC meeting will appear in Thursday’s paper.


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