I’m always on the lookout for interesting economic development examples that may have relevance to us here in New Brunswick.
Take the example of Kannapolis, North Carolina. It’s located about 80 kms outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The City was just honoured with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s 2009 Excellence in Economic Development Award. The city received the award in the category of Excellence in Economic Diversification Strategies, which recognizes responses to plant closures and other economic dislocations, that promote economic diversification.
Cabarrus and Rowan counties lost 4,300 manufacturing jobs when textile manufacturer Kannapolis-basedPillowtex Corp. closed in July 2003. Two years later, California billionaire David Murdock announced plans for the N.C. Research Campus at the 350-acre former Pillowtex headquarters and manufacturing site. The life-sciences hub includes the participation of Duke University, the UNC System, the N.C. Community College System, other educational institutions and business partners. The total investment is expected to reach $1.8 billion.
There are a couple of learnings from this story:
1. It can be done. I get tired of hearing that Bathurst or Miramichi or Edmundston can’t attract investment unless it is related to the forestry. Sure it will take some creativity but when old industries decline, new ones need to emerge and government can play a facilitation role in infrastructure, workforce development, tax incentives, promotion, etc.
2. The most common theme I hear is “why?”. Why would someone want to put a Research Campus in a place like Bathurst or Moncton for that matter? Go ask this guy in North Carolina. It can be done.
3. Brownfield redevelopment can work. Don’t just plough under those old forest products mills. Google built a data centre in one in Finland. This guy build a research park in an old textile mill. It can be done.