Business advisory council forms

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

The origin of Carroll's Business Advisory Council stems from the fact that half of all new jobs come from successful local companies that grow and hire new workers.

The advisory council — facilitated by Bernie Deck, Carroll's business development specialist — will work to create conditions that help local companies become successful and undergo such expansions.

One way to do that is to assemble on a regular basis knowledgeable business representatives and have them brainstorm about opportunities, challenges and ways to address them.

Local economic developers and governmental officials have already focused on the    next largest job creation activity by supporting entrepreneurs who launch their own start-up companies, Deck explained. Activities of the Crossroads Institute and the Small Business Development Center have concentrated their efforts and enjoyed great results.

He pointed to the figures from various programs that have secured $35 million in funding, assisted 125 businesses that have created or saved 600 or so jobs.

Small companies result in the creation of 49 percent of new jobs, Deck noted. Only 1 percent of jobs that arise from the recruitment of a new company to the area.

This made clear to the Carroll Industrial Development Authority and the Board of Supervisors the need to tap additional job creation possibilities by helping local businesses and entrepreneurs.

The advisory council's mission is to help "identify economic development needs and opportunities in the region," Deck explained. "The council will act as a catalyst in organizing and sponsoring activities that promote economic vitality and contribute to the general welfare of the community."

This would allow a wide range of issues to be considered and discussed by participating business and community representatives, Deck said.

This fits in well with Deck's mission as business developer and executive director of the IDA. This effort opens a dialogue that will be good for business and the local economic development climate.

"In general, it's government's role to create an environment where things can happen," he said.

He sees the advisory council as a way for the businesses to get involved and help themselves and the community.

The group held its inaugural meeting Jan. 13 with about 16 individuals from various kinds of manufacturing and commercial businesses represented, Deck said. Participants had a good exchange of ideas with a significant part of it dealing with workforce development.

Participants raised issues like what level of education may be required for potential and current employers. Deck said one example of the participants' thinking comes from what kind of training for employees might a medium-security prison planned for Grayson County need.

"Do we have the labor pool to help make a business successful?" participants asked. "Is this an education level that can be developed?"

Could there be training opportunities at the community colleges that might not otherwise fit into semester classes or college credits? participants wondered. If there were places where workers could get their fork life operator or other certifications, that could enhance the business climate, the participants believe.

Employers need to communicate what skill sets are needed to workforce development representatives, like Wytheville Community College.

With these ideas in mind, Deck said he would invite a workforce development representative to speak to the participants at future meetings.

Other points of discussion included:

• how to attract more visitors to stop in Carroll from the high volume of traffic on Interstate 77 and other routes.

That may include offering more places to shop and eat. Advisory council members would like to target specific kinds of businesses to bring to the area to help with that.

In a related topic, participants discussed keeping the identities of the four different interstate exits different from each other in hopes of not saturating them with the same businesses.

• making natural gas available for use in the area.

• having a comprehensive business directory.

"That's a lot to accomplish — and eat lunch — in an hour and 15 minutes," Deck said.

He sees the activities of the advisory council as going hand-in-hand with his work as business developer and head of the IDA.

The IDA also has the responsibility of promoting entrepreneurial culture, sponsoring retention and expansion and recruiting new businesses.

For the IDA, Deck says the authority's 2010 priorities include revitalizing the Carroll County Industrial Park; continuing to focus on the development of the interstate exits by establishing themes and visions and recruiting prospects.

IDA members have set themselves the goals of working with existing employers to generate 250 jobs, recruiting new businesses to create 750 new jobs and increase business tax revenue by 50 percent, all by 2015.

The plan is for the business advisory council to meet every other month, with the next one slated for mid-March, Deck said.