By 1812Blockhouse

The Richland County Commissioners Tuesday meeting focused on a discussion about the county’s economic development initiatives and progress. The meeting provided an opportunity for local development officials to share updates on ongoing projects and celebrate early successes.

Participants included Jodie Perry. Chief Operating Officer of the Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development; Barrett Thomas, Economic Development Director; Jessica Gribben, Economic Development Manager for the City of Shelby;  Sandy Messner, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Cliff Knight, Chamber Workforce Development Director.

Continued Growth and Expansion

During the meeting, it was emphasized that Richland County has maintained a strong pace of economic growth even in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The county has witnessed a surge in business expansion and has been actively supporting local enterprises with hiring needs.

Efforts to enhance the visibility of the community through branding have yielded positive results. The Chamber noted that it is among the top three finalists for the prestigious national Chamber of the Year award, with the winner set to be announced at the end of the month.

Finding Space

Thomas presented a comprehensive overview of the county’s economic landscape. He showcased several significant projects and shared success stories from local businesses.

One example highlighted the challenges of finding suitable industrial space due to the tight real estate market. However, a local company managed to expand into a neighboring building, effectively addressing their space needs. They further invested in automation, allowing employees to focus on higher-level tasks while repetitive tasks were streamlined.

“We were able to help and get them some incentives. They’ve now bought their building and the additional location that was City-owned, and the city really didn’t want to be in the landlord business, so it was kind of a great marriage,” said Thomas.

Additionally, the county has witnessed accelerated growth in the manufacturing sector. The surge in demand prompted the need for more space, resulting in the construction of a new showroom and testing facility. This expansion aims to accommodate the company’s growing customer base and increase production capacity.

Workforce Development Initiatives

Richland County has also placed a strong emphasis on workforce development. Efforts have been made to bridge the gap between employers and job seekers, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Collaborative programs involving educational institutions, the Regional Manufacturing Coalition, and the Workforce Development Board have been instrumental in preparing students for careers in the industry.

This has included bringing in a Workforce Coordinator. “We’re excited to bring more capacity in,” said Knight.

Through these programs, students have had the opportunity to connect with local employers, showcase their skills, and secure job placements. The success of these initiatives has resulted in a cultural shift, fostering better integration between different generations in the workforce.

Grants and Partnerships

The meeting also highlighted the county’s success in securing grants and forming partnerships to support economic development efforts. Notably, the county received a national Tech Grant, which will be used to further enhance workforce development programs focused on technology and upskilling.

The importance of collaboration and partnerships in these endeavors was underscored. The county’s ability to foster strong relationships with various stakeholders, including businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies, has been crucial in standing out and securing grants.

Looking North

Strong efforts are taking place in the northern part of the county as well. “Shelby outpunches its weight class and these numbers reflect that,” Gribben told the Commissioners. Ongoing good news included a review of two economic development projects, as well as grants for downtown buildings.Gribben also noted that the Black Fork Brewing under construction.

Looking Towards the Future

The Commissioners remain optimistic about the future of economic development in the area. While challenges persist, such as site control and uncertainty surrounding major projects like Intel, the county is committed to overcoming these barriers. A steering committee has been established to identify and address development needs, ensuring the community continues to grow and prosper.

The meeting concluded with expressions of gratitude for the support received from the CDG (Chamber for Economic Development) and the commissioners’ commitment to advancing economic opportunities in Richland County.

Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

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