Uptown Greenville, NC


Developer’s Standards Reap Rewards

By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

May 26, 2013 - Landing a $90 million industrial expansion project that will generate 200 jobs is a pretty satisfying reward for people in the industrial development business.

Getting a letter of praise from the consultant working with the expanding business is priceless.

Such a letter was received by Pitt County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jimmy Garris the day after it was announced that ASMO North America was expanding operations at its Greenville facility.

Ernest C. Pearson, a partner with Nesxen-Pruet, the consultants that represented ASMO, praised Wanda Yuhas, executive director of the Pitt County Development Commission, and her staff for “their professionalism and polite persistence.”

“We work with projects and economic development organizations all over the state and the country,” Pearson wrote.

“I can tell you that the handling of this project by Ms. Yuhas and her team, and the very professional way you and your Commissioners handled themselves, has put Pitt County at the top of the list of desirable locations in the minds of my partners and me. Good job!”

The letter was unexpected because consultants rarely write notes of congratulations, Yuhas said. Multiple thoughts went through her mind when she read it.

“There was a little bit of amazement and then, (the thought) it means a lot,” Yuhas said. Pearson had very high standards so receiving the letter was doubly gratifying, she said.

“But the very next (thought) was we can’t rest on our laurels. That’s the standard we want to achieve every single time,” Yuhas said.

Developing a positive relationship with a consultant who works with expanding industry is important, Yuhas said. Few companies that want to expand or build a new facility work directly with communities, they rely on consultants.

When companies or consultants are researching a location, they are looking for a reason to mark a community off its list, not to keep it, Yuhas said.

That is why her staff concentrates on responding quickly to inquiries, she said. Where a company may once have given an economic development office a week to gather and mail in information it is seeking, these days the facts need to be emailed by the end of the work day.

That’s why Yuhas’ staff concentrates on continuously updating information about the county’s industrial and business climate, educational activities and incentives offered by county government.

It was two weeks before Thanksgiving when her office was contacted about making a bid for the ASMO expansion. Because the decision was being made on the corporate level, they were not allowed to contact the local plant. Staff knew they would be competing with ASMO locations in Michigan and Texas, including a Texas community with a development office known as the gold standard for recruiting new industry, Yuhas said.

There were no face-to-face conversations during the search process, Yuhas said. All communications were done through email and conference calls, including a Sunday afternoon discussion.

Yuhas said Greenville and Pitt County are building on the momentum established by the ASMO expansion.

Her office is following up on a project mentioned by Pearson. She cannot divulge details, but Pitt County is in the running.

“It’s a project that I don’t think we (in the past) would have been considered for,” she said.

Her office is working with the city of Greenville on several projects, including efforts to develop entrepreneurs.

Yuhas and her staff also are discussing with others the need to fund and build a new shell building that easily could be modified to meet the needs of an expanding or relocating business.

Not having such a structure means Pitt County is crossed off some lists.

The upside, Yuhas said, is Pitt County has a base of builders and contractors who can take on large-scale specialized construction projects for industries with particular needs. Fifteen years ago, Raleigh builders were the only ones with that expertise.

The county got a boost when it was announced last week it was the second Certified WorkReady Community in the state.

Communities earn their designation by increasing their high school graduation rate, having 10 of its top 20 employers pledge to use the Career Readiness Certificate in their employment practices and achieving other standards.

“We have over 6,000 Pitt County residents who have Career Readiness Certificate credentials,” Yuhas said. “It’s something companies understand. It’s something we’ll use in our recruitment efforts because a qualified workforce is still a key element in recruitment.”

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.