Recruiting new industry

By Bob Shaffner
Retired CFO, Klaussner Furniture Industries; Chairman of the Board, Randolph Hospital Inc.

I hope everyone interested in the Alcohol debate had a chance to read Staff Writer J.D. Walker's article in this past Sunday's The Courier-Tribune. The article entitled: "Randolph County EDC rethinking strategy", described the changing economic climate in Randolph County and the need for the Economic Development Corporation, which is funded by our county, to modify its efforts in order to look to the future and address those changes.  Bonnie Renfro, President of the EDC, told the county comissioners that the organization needs to diversify its economic targets because we can no longer rely just on our traditional manufacturing companies to supply the growth in jobs needed to sustain us as our manufacturing economy transitions to a service-based economy.  She said " the number of manufacturing jobs is shrinking even as production is increasing."
Mrs. Renfro went on to state that she believes our strategy going forward, while not abandoning our manufacturing base, should be to concentrate on developing our tourism assets and recruit more small to mid-sized professional and technical service businesses.  I could not agree more!
It is perfectly clear to me, as someone who spent his entire career in the financial and manufacturing sectors as a senior executive, that we simply must change our focus away from traditional manufacturing and quickly try to recruit as many small to mid-sized Biotech and High-tech companies and entrepenuers as we can, and as soon as we can. We need to do what is necessary to make ourselves more attractive to the 50 to 100 employee size manufacturing and service sector companies looking to relocate or to start a new venture.  
We must also do a much better job of marketing the tourism assets we already have in abundance, but don't seem to fully appreciate or leverage like we need to. The North Carolina Zoo is our county's flagship attraction, but our pottery industry and our various museums are also fantastic, and should provide many new job opportunities in the furure, if promoted properly.
Now, what does all of this have to do with alcohol?  Well, if we are to make ourselves more appealing to attract the types of industries we will need to survive, we must improve our image as a place to which anybody would want to move or move their company.  The list of things necessary is a long one. Having upscale restaurants is an amenity that most business people now simply take for granted. And don't you think having a few upscale grocery stores would be nice. Alcohol products help provide the additional profit margin that makes this work. All of our competition for those new companies have these amenities. Finally, if we are going to grow our tourism which means attracting people here that don't live here, we must make them feel at home while they are here. Alcohol is only one piece of the puzzle. But it is an important piece that needs to be put in place and, it is something we can do, and do it now!
I hope all of you who are concerned about the Future of Asheboro will vote "FOR"  that future on July 29.