“Everyone knows that the county is rising nicely,” Arthur Salido, director of enterprise technique and financial improvement for the consulting agency WithersRavenel, mentioned throughout a Feb. 9 work session. “With development comes problem, but additionally alternatives. Once we began this course of a 12 months in the past and COVID hit, it was exhausting to foretell how that might influence the county.”
The ensuing Complete Financial Improvement Technique, Salido mentioned, will assist equip the county and its stakeholders “with methods and sources to sort out all of the difficult points that ignite the adjustments that result in significant influence.”
The planning course of kicked off in August 2020, a collaboration between WithersRavenel and the Jackson County Office of Economic Development. To create the plan, the financial improvement workplace selected about 30 enterprise, authorities, regional and state leaders to behave as a spotlight group, producing suggestions and recommendation. The commissioner-appointed Enterprise and Trade Advisory Committee performed an necessary function within the course of as nicely. The plan attracts closely from the Jackson County 2040 Land Use Plan, which was permitted in 2017 and comprises targets associated to financial improvement. The financial improvement plan additionally emphasizes the county’s 2012 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and the Southwestern Financial Improvement District’s 2017 CEDS.
The ultimate product options eight financial improvement targets with short-term, mid-term, long-term and ongoing motion gadgets underneath every. These targets intention to handle 4 key points that the group uncovered whereas researching the plan.
• Inexpensive housing: In Jackson County, 52 p.c of renters and 21 p.c of house owners in Jackson County have a tough time affording housing based mostly on common housing costs and revenue knowledge.
• Workforce: Focus teams have been involved in regards to the county’s incapacity to draw the expert commerce employees it wants or to retain youth and expertise.
• An growing older, rising inhabitants: The county’s inhabitants has elevated 7.8 p.c since 2015 and is anticipated to extend 4.1 p.c between 2020 and 2025, however its share of retirement-age folks is larger than regular. The nationwide common for a comparable inhabitants could be 12,919 folks 55 and older, however Jackson County has 14,436 folks in that age group.
• Trade combine: Authorities is by far the most important sector in Jackson County, using 4,989 employees. Trailing are lodging and meals providers with 2,442 employees, well being care and social help with 2,101 employees and retail commerce with 1,911 employees. Collectively, these 4 sectors make use of greater than 70 p.c of Jackson County employees.
To deal with these points, the plan outlines eight targets.
• Aim 1: Preserve a sturdy and sustainable tourism vacation spot. Stakeholders indicated that Jackson’s communities may benefit from a extra various combine of companies to spur visitation and improvement of the financial system and neighborhood. A regional branding marketing campaign to focus on belongings just like the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park and Harrah’s Cherokee On line casino, enhancements to Tuckasegee River entry areas and a brand new occasion or convention heart have been additionally prompt. As well as, focus teams expressed considerations in regards to the environmental impacts of tourism and requested that the county think about measures to guard its pure sources.
• Aim 2: Construct a workforce that may meet the wants of present and future employers. Jackson County comprises a number of high-quality schooling suppliers in addition to extremely expert second-home residents and retirees, however filling Jackson County jobs with Jackson County residents stays a problem. In 2017, the variety of non-residents working in Jackson County outweighed the variety of Jackson County residents commuting to different counties by 1,571. This reality might point out that neighboring counties supply residents higher entry to sources like housing and broadband. Workforce improvement strategies included creating job shadowing and internship alternatives for highschool and school college students and specializing in optimistic profession messaging for elementary and center faculty college students. Collaboration with larger schooling suppliers to broaden instructional alternatives and creating transit and ridesharing alternatives to assist workers with out their very own transportation are additionally prompt.
• Aim 3: Countywide high-speed broadband availability. Whereas the area is step by step including web capability, entry remains to be missing. Advised actions to handle this challenge embody creating a brand new Digital Inclusion Committee to foster collaborative dialogue between numerous gamers, making certain the county has an entire stock of present broadband infrastructure and correct broadband map, and evaluating how funds from the Jackson County Revolving Mortgage Fund could be redirected towards broadband-related priorities.
• Aim 4: Create a advertising marketing campaign for Jackson County to assist current enterprise and entice new companies. Restricted developable land and distance from the interstate freeway system problem industrial recruitment, so Jackson County is specializing in attracting companies from 5 goal industries — schooling, gaming, well being care, tourism and retirement. Advised actions to attain these embody establishing a regional tourism model/id, collaborating with regional companions to undertake a research-based provide chain research, sustaining an up-to-date searchable on-line database of accessible buildings and websites and creating cluster focus teams to satisfy and focus on rising traits.
• Aim 5: Determine funding alternatives to handle present and future vital financial wants. Points surrounding the shortage of reasonably priced housing and developable land for brand spanking new housing got here up in each stakeholder assembly in the course of the planning effort. The plan recommends that the financial improvement workplace create a housing activity power and that Jackson County pursue choices like forming a memorandum of understanding with landowners allowing the financial improvement workplace to market their property to housing builders. Normally, the county ought to consider public-private partnership alternatives to create workforce housing, discover alternatives with the Federal Housing Finance Company and consider utility infrastructure wants for housing growth.
• Aim 6: Decide to changing into an entrepreneurial/small enterprise capital. Stakeholders beneficial that Jackson County create a small enterprise and entrepreneurial hub in downtown Sylva to catalyze job creation and retention. Collaboration between organizations could be key to attaining this purpose, as would high-speed web entry for tenants. Ideally, the hub would offer free public Wi-Fi all through downtown Sylva, serving to to shut the “schooling hole” for students who don’t have broadband at home and bettering the tourism expertise.
• Aim 7: Preserve a complete financial improvement technique. The county should develop an in depth work plan supporting implementation of the motion initiatives within the CEDS. The county will doubtless want further employees to assist perform the plan’s advice and may create an annual standing replace on the motion gadgets, additionally planning to revisit your entire plan each 5 years.
• Aim 8: Preserve and improve high quality of life for residents, vacationers and small enterprise house owners. Stakeholders burdened the significance of sustaining Jackson County’s vibrant and walkable downtowns, rising well being care system, family-friendly and low-crime ambiance and ample out of doors recreation belongings. To guard these advantages, the county ought to develop a long-term water sources administration technique, create a mixed-used actual property improvement, enhance river entry and add bike paths and entry for different transportation.
The Workplace of Financial Improvement, which is liable for overseeing a lot of the aims listed within the plan, at the moment has just one worker — Director Wealthy Value. Nevertheless, Value left that place on Feb. 12 for a new job as director of financial improvement at Western Carolina College.
Jackson County is at the moment advertising the place and accepting functions by way of March 8. Permitting for time to assessment functions, conduct interviews and let the chosen candidate to provide discover at his or her present job, the county hopes to have somebody in place by mid-Might. The place’s pay vary is $53,734 to $66,812. Implementing the CEDS will likely be a part of the brand new director’s job description.