Keeping Industry Happy: GADC’s New Position Targets RetentionApr 03, 2017 04:54PM ● By Makayla Gay
By John McCurry
From her years as a site selector, Kim Williams says her biggest enjoyment was the opportunity to see first hand the different management styles and approach to doing business. Williams, who spent 13 years at the Greenville-based McCallum Sweeney consultancy, will continue working closely with industry in her new role as the Greenville Area Development Corp’s first-ever existing industry manager.
“I spent my career as a site selector helping companies make sure their needs are met, and in a way, this is the economic development equivalent of that,” Williams says. “It uses a lot of the same skill sets such as working with infrastructure, workforce issues and analyzing tax situations.”
Williams’ new role will involve collaborating with companies to make sure they are aware of low-cost or no-cost resources. She cites as an example the availability of services from the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which can offer companies a competitive assessment and tour facilities with an eye toward offering ideas where improvements can be made.
“There are resources out there that some companies may not know are available to them,” Williams explains.
After joining GADC in February, Williams launched an outreach program to let companies know of the new service. She says that while the state does support existing industry, there is much that needs to be done at the local level such as smoothing the way for utility permits.
Williams’ new boss, GADC president and CEO Mark Farris, says when he came to Greenville in September 2014, he was surprised an existing industry manager position didn’t exist at GADC.
“We were a little conspicuous in that we didn’t have someone dedicated to it,” Farris says. “In fact, if you look across the state, you will find that almost every local economic development agency has somebody dedicated to existing industry. I’m not suggesting we have to do it because everybody else does it, but in Greenville we have over 650 manufacturing companies. It’s an incredible number. We owe it to them to try to figure out ways to add value to their operations.”
Farris came to GADC from York County, where in 1992 as director of economic development, he hired the state’s first person dedicated to working with existing industry at a local economic development agency. That program became productive, he says.
As she develops the new program, Williams says she is taking advantages of connections she has around the U.S., looking at best practices for serving existing industries. She says she doesn’t want to recreate the wheel, but wants to develop the best possible program for Greenville.
“There is assistance we can provide to companies regardless of their size,” Farris says. “As Kim calls on companies, we want to make sure that we are prepared to add value to their time, not just collecting information. As the awareness of this program becomes broader, she will start getting calls with companies needing help with a road issue or a sewer line issue.”
There’s also that magic term: tax incentives. Often the icing on the cake for companies looking to relocate, they are available to existing companies too, if they meet the minimum criteria of a capital investment of $2.5 million or create at least 10 new jobs. GADC is the entity for negotiating local incentives and not all companies are aware that this is available, Farris notes.
“Sometimes existing companies feel neglected when they see headlines about incentives,” Farris says. “They can qualify just as quickly as new companies.”
Competition is constant and keen in industry recruiting. An existing industry program is a great tool to keep companies happy and content to stay in Greenville.
“We are home to some high-profile companies,” Farris says. “We are trying to keep our companies from becoming somebody else’s prospects. I am sure a lot of companies in Greenville get that call. We want to make sure they know the value proposition of staying in Greenville.”
Farris says GADC is fortunate to find someone with Williams’ experience and expertise. While at McCallum Sweeney, she was involved in incentive negotiations for both U.S. and international companies. She worked as a project manager in the consultancy’s economic development practice and led site readiness and certification programs for states and regions.
Williams may be reached at [email protected]