- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Attracting major industry to Lancaster County is no simple task.
Many players are involved and negotiations are often long and drawn-out.
On top of that, economic and demographic conditions have to be suitable before a company will even consider making your county their home.
The local Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Lancaster group spent a full day recently hearing from officials who have a hand in making major industry deals happen.
Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. (LCEDC) President Keith Tunnell said challenges have included the lack of certified sites and good speculative (“spec”) buildings for potential companies to move into.
The county also has to make sure the people here looking for jobs have the skills and training level to match employers' demands.
“Got to have workers who are ready to go,” Tunnell said.
Despite those ongoing challenges, the news has been positive.
Tunnell said in 2012 companies created more than 900 jobs in Lancaster County. Since 2004, Lancaster County ranks sixth in the state in job creation, he said.
That has helped reduce the high unemployment rate spawned by the recession a few years back. These days, Tunnell said the county’s unemployment rate fluctuates between 11 and 12 percent.
“We’ve got it headed in the right direction, but we've still got a lot of room for improvement,” Tunnell said.
He told the Leadership group that LCEDC doesn’t focus on commercial or retail. Those companies – such as popular chain restaurants and stores – choose their locations.
Specific metrics and criteria go into determining where such entities locate. They also pay attention to an area’s political climate and education foundation.
Tunnell dismissed the perception that all Lancaster County officials do is “give away” loads of incentives to prospective businesses.
He said incentives are offered late in the negotiation process and are used to offset the state’s 10.5 percent manufacturing tax rate, which is the highest in the United States.
“Incentives are always going to be in play,” Tunnell said. “An incentive package often tilts it (a business deal) in your favor or against you.”
Among LCEDC’s goals this year are to continue to market sites with easy access to the L&C Railroad line, secure money for a new business park in Kershaw and maintain support for Haile Gold Mine Inc., as it looks to receive a federal permit to start production.
Utilities supporting the cause
Before Tunnell’s presentation at the new Lancaster County Water and Sewer District headquarters, LCWSD Assistant Manager Stephen White addressed the Leadership group.
He gave a history of the utility company and its plans for further growth in the future. They are now going through the permitting process to built a 92-acre raw-water reservoir near the Catawba River. That will complement the 23-acre reservoir that already sits there.
When companies vet areas for possible relocation, they want to ensure the infrastructure – such as water – will be able to meet their needs.
“All of this affects economic development in the county,” White said.
The same goes for electricity.
Later in the day, Sandy Martin, an economic development manager with Duke Energy, talked about the power company’s presence in the region.
Duke Energy representatives are often among the contingent of local officials who meet with companies when relocation negotiations first launch.
They often offer their own electricity incentives to big businesses – adding to what LCEDC or Lancaster County Council may have offered.
“We’re the icing on the cake,” Martin said.
‘We’re here to stay’
Leadership Lancaster’s full day program Feb. 13 featured a visit to Nutramax Laboratories.
The company, which occupies two different buildings inside Lancaster Business Park off S.C. 9 Bypass East, makes health supplements for humans and animals.
Nutramax official Kristen Blanchard said the company has moved between 30 and 40 percent of its operations from Maryland to Lancaster. The hope is to have all facets of the company based in Lancaster, she said.
She said tax incentives received from Lancaster played a big part in its deciding to come here.
“We’re here to stay. We’re here to grow,” Blanchard said. “We want to make a positive impact on Lancaster.”
The day also included presentations from Ernie Green, dean of York Technical College Off-Campus Centers, and Lisa Robbins of the Catawba Regional Education Center. They discussed how educational opportunities and workforce training play a role in the area's economic vitality.
Leadership Lancaster participant Lynne Workman said all the information presented was eye-opening.
“I had no idea that it involved that much in getting a company here,” she said.
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152