The New Frontier

October 13, 2021

Celebrating Manufacturing, the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and the future of Economic Development in Henderson County

The Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development (HCPED) hosted its annual event at Jeter Mountain Farm on Thursday, September 30th. The evening was a celebration of the past two years of economic development in Henderson County and a moment to reflect on the “New Frontier” of economic development. The annual event is the premier event for the organization and provides networking among business leaders in the community while recapping the success of economic development in Henderson County. The event also gave a nod to National Manufacturing Week, held in early October.

Attendees enjoyed networking and dinner at HCPED’s annual event.

Since the last celebration in 2019, Board Chair Nathan Kennedy shared all The Partnership had accomplished:

  • Updated Target Analysis
  • Made in Henderson County Apprenticeship Cohort 2 & 3: 18 new apprentices
  • Workforce Strategies: relocation guide, Work Ready Community, and continuing education coordination with BRCC
  • Over 25 marketing activities completed
  • Events: NCDOT transportation meeting, university resource meeting, investor update meetings, and industrial forum
  • Big Adventures expanded, R&D Plastics, Mavidon, and Low Impact Technologies relocated to Henderson County, TecniKabel located to Downtown Hendersonville, Carolina Ground opened, Project Maverick found a location to launch its new venture, and Jabil Healthcare is the anchor tenant in Garrison Industrial Park – committing over $38M and creating 150 jobs

While The Partnership works quietly behind the scenes to meet their mission to create and retain quality jobs in Henderson County, their work the past two years has been centered around additional pillars of economic development: product and workforce development, these are critical components to HCPED’s mission and essential to secure a competitive future for economic development.

The Importance of Manufacturing & HCPED’s Role

HCPED focuses primarily on manufacturing companies. Why? Simply put – manufacturing pays the bills in our community. “A lot of folks do not understand the complexity of economic development and why we focus primarily on advanced manufacturing. The work that HCPED does builds a robust and resilient economy, which directly translates into a higher quality of life with meaningful employment for residents.”– Nathan Kennedy, Chair of the HCPED Board of Directors.

HCPED Chair, Nathan Kennedy addresses crowd at Jeter Mountain Farm.

Since 2006, The Partnership has assisted in bringing in over $935M in new capital investment. “The way we look at new investment, for example, is comparing $40M in industrial investment to 40 one-million-dollar homes. Homes occupied by families have a high cost of services while manufacturing buildings and equipment have a much lower cost of services. Because of this high investment and low cost, there are more tax dollars in the community to pay for services which ultimately results in a much lower tax burden on citizens.” -Brittany Brady, President and CEO of Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development.

Manufacturing accounts for 30% of the tax revenue generated in Henderson County, but manufacturing does more than just invest in a community through capital dollars, it invests through jobs. On average, manufacturing wages are $15,000 higher than the average private sector wage. High wages deliver a higher quality of life and circulate wealth through our economy. Manufacturing jobs have a broad impact, for every new manufacturing job created, 1.8 to 2.6 jobs are created in other industry sectors. That is one of the highest multiplier effects of any industry.

During last month’s event, The Partnership celebrated the five companies that announced expansions or relocations to Henderson County during FY 2020-21. Those announcements exceeded $45,000,000 in capital investment and resulted in the creation of over 210 jobs. Taking the manufacturing multiplier effect into consideration, an additional 420 indirect jobs were also created in the community. Overall, a higher quality of life is the result.

While new company locations make the headlines, The Partnership facilitates relationships with the 130+ manufacturing companies already in the community assuring Henderson County remains a business-friendly location and can provide necessary connections and resources to help industry succeed. As highlighted by the Spring Industry Forum, for manufacturers to be successful, they need connections with utility partners, state resources through the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (such as International Trade and Import/Export Assistance) as well as workforce partners. 

Workforce Development: Building a lasting pipeline

The Partnership did not avoid the difficult discussion regarding labor. The demographic drought is felt across all industries, even with unemployment numbers in a pre-pandemic state. “There are numerous factors that are impacting labor. People have left the workforce and there are simply fewer people returning to work. However, we live in a community that is willing to work together to help employers during this time.”-Laura Leatherwood, Blue Ridge Community College

There is no silver bullet to solve the workforce problem, but The Partnership has been proactive this year in developing strategies around building a workforce pipeline and recruiting talent. The Partnership launched in 2020 to help promote online manufacturing job postings and built a relocation guide to help employers integrate relocating employees into the community.

The Made in Henderson County Apprenticeship program continued to grow in Year Three, with nine apprentices signing into the program in 2021. The fourth year of the program officially launched on Friday, October 8th with the annual tradition of Made in Henderson County tours. Thirteen seniors from across Henderson County Public Schools toured four different manufacturing companies located across Henderson County, including Elkamet, Kyocera, GF Linamar, and Norafin Americas.

With COVID-19 safety precautions limiting the number of students able to participate, smaller groups of seniors from four of the five public high schools in Henderson County were presented with an opportunity for intimate and extended tours of the host companies. The tours concentrated on introducing the students to the Made in Henderson County Apprenticeship program as they develop post-graduation plans.

From high-pressure diecasting to ceramic machining, the students were exposed to the vast world of advanced manufacturing and the variety of occupations employed by manufacturing companies. As the full-day field trip concluded, students left with a clear understanding of how their career ambitions could be achieved through manufacturing and, specifically, through the Made in Henderson County Apprenticeship program.

Henderson County Public High School students touring GF Linamar.

“Our business is reliant on a steady supply of smart, talented young people who are looking to start a career in manufacturing. We are proud to be partners in Made in Henderson County’s efforts to build an enduring link between local students and industry and find solutions that defy the national labor shortage.”-Adam Karn, Human Resources Director at GF Linamar

Product Development: Investing in tomorrow

“We had great success from 2016-2021, announcing over 797 newly created jobs… any community would envy that success. However, the story that does not get told is once a company locates on a site, you have created an internal problem that requires a unique solution: where are you going to locate your next industry?” – Beau Waddell, past chair of the HCPED Board of Directors

While The Partnership continues to provide employers with resources and data to help with hiring decisions, a product development strategy must be deployed alongside workforce development to secure a manufacturing future.

In 2020, The Partnership entered new territory with the creation Garrison Industrial Park. “If you do not own land, you cannot control land and you cannot secure investment. It is important for communities to make sure that land it zoned and designated for industrial use develops for such purposes to capture the highest and best use.”- Chip Gould, past chair of the Economic Investment Fund.

The Economic Investment Fund of Henderson County (EIF), the sister 501c (3) organization of HCPED focused on product (sites/buildings) and workforce development, began conversations with Henderson County and the City of Hendersonville to assure that the Garrison Site – adjacent to Appleland Industrial Park off Upward Road and surrounding industry off Crest Road- would develop industrially. The Garrison Industrial Park became a reality in November 2020 when Henderson County, the City of Hendersonville, and EIF signed a historic three-party agreement to buy the Garrison land, and soon welcomed new tenant Jabil. Because of the work to blaze a new path for product development, Henderson County and the City of Hendersonville were named the HCPED Partners of the Year and mapped out the new territory they discovered together, leaving behind the directions for sustainable product development.

Henderson County and the City of Hendersonville were named HCPED’s Partner of the Year.

National Manufacturing Week was an overdue celebration of economic development in our community, of the manufacturers that help pay the bills and employ our citizens, and of the partnerships that help HCPED secure Henderson County’s economic development success for generations to come.