Byrd: 2019 a ‘really good year’ for existing industries, expansions

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 12/27/19

The end of a calendar year is a good time to look back, assess what’s happened and think ahead for what’s to come.

So to do that, I spoke to Alyssa Byrd, president of the Chatham Economic …

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Byrd: 2019 a ‘really good year’ for existing industries, expansions

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Posted

The end of a calendar year is a good time to look back, assess what’s happened and think ahead for what’s to come.

So to do that, I spoke to Alyssa Byrd, president of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation about those things. We also chatted about the county’s megasites and reflected for a bit on her (almost) first full year as president of the EDC.

Of note: We’ll hear more from Byrd in multiple stories over the next couple weeks. What’s below is just part of the conversation I had with her. Next week, I’ll feature New Year’s Resolutions and hopes and dreams for 2020 from multiple business and economic development leaders, including Byrd. So there’s more to come.

How would you assess economic development in Chatham County in 2019?

Great year for existing industries and expansions. Really good year. We have some growing local employers, of course, and then we’ve had a couple good projects land and start up. Gilero coming into downtown Pittsboro, still renovating their building, expecting at least 60 employees out of that one. AD Tubi in Siler City acquired their building, got up and running within 10 months. Incredible overhaul of that building. We were able to leverage grants with the (N.C. Department of) Commerce for building reuse grants for both projects. It’s plugging along and filling the opportunities where we see them.

Any challenges that we’re seeing are challenges that any other community across the state, across the nation are seeing. The demand for workforce, affordable housing — everyone is grappling with those issues. We’re so fortunate that we’re so much further ahead with our proximity within a growing market and the development that’s been in the works for over 10 years, Briar Chapel and Chatham Park. We’re in a very good position going into the next decade.

What’s the status of the Moncure Megasite and Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site?

I think they’re still both in really good positions. Sewer is anticipated to deliver at Moncure in early spring, and that’s the last piece of infrastructure for that site. So you’re looking at delivery time, speed to market from a business perspective, you’ve got everything in place there. The Chatham-Siler City (site) is very much in the same boat, because all of the planning and due diligence has been done for the missing pieces of infrastructure, which is really just sewer and gas at this point. And expansion of those things coincides with construction and site development of a project.

So continuing to work to promote what we’ve got, the partnerships that we have, the region that we’re in. These aren’t sites in the middle of Chatham County. They’re sites on the edge with other counties. So we have to work regionally and collaboratively with promoting these.

Along with that is recognizing what opportunities and trends are out there, and does 1,000 acres make sense, and having a plan B for marketing smaller concepts, and being able to think that way as well. Both owners are open to that. We know we’ve got the product, we’ve got the land. This is the one way we’ve been marketing it, to have that additional flexibility. We know it’s a good product, we know we’ve got a good workforce, we know that we can pull a lot of people in. These are regions that continue to grow. It’s a good destination for new people.

The EDC has seen some expansion in the last year — you hired someone — and continues to receive taxpayer support. Where does the EDC stand as we head into 2020?

We’ve got three staff members and a bookkeeper. So we’re feeling good. We’re heading into 2020 with some strategic planning. We’re going to do a three-year strategic plan. In the past, it’s been five years, but we feel like things change so rapidly now that we need to be constantly evaluating and more regularly updating the strategy of the organization. So nothing’s going to shift monumentally, but if you consider the fact that our last strategic plan was done in 2014, a lot has happened since then. So looking forward to that, it’s been a really good experience so far, and then from there as an organization, launching a new capital fundraising campaign alongside the strategic plan to get some buy-in from the community and businesses to support the plan that we’re going to work. And then continuing to enhance our proactive community outreach and education internally.

What do you personally take away from your first year as president of the EDC?

I think doing a strategic plan for an organization really helps you feel ownership of it and responsibility for it. It gives you a different sense of, “Alright, I have to take care of this baby now and see it through.” I felt that way before, but I’m not just keeping the wheels on anymore. It’s growing it rather than maintaining it.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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