by Tori Hamby

The Lake Norman business community needs to focus on providing buildings for companies looking to move to the area, says one area economic leader.

Jerry Broadway, executive director Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation, gave local business leaders a report on the state of the economy in Cornelius, Huntersville and Davidson at a Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce luncheon Sept. 13.

He said businesses will likely pass on relocating to Lake Norman if the problem isn’t fixed.

“Without buildings for (companies) to consider, they pass right by us,” Broadway said. “We won’t know anything about it until we see the announcement in the newspaper.”

He added that about 80 percent of companies looking to relocate look for existing buildings to meet their needs.

Broadway said the LNREDC hired a consultant three years ago to identify areas in which it could improve the local economy. The four areas he identified were attracting jobs to the area, retaining and expanding businesses already located in Lake Norman, improving investor relations and providing facilities and shovel-ready sites for relocating businesses.

The EDC set a goal to attract $100 million in capital investment and 600 new jobs during a three-year period, Broadway said. With businesses such as ABB Inc., Lime Energy, Positec Tool Corporation and MSC Industrial Direct Co. moving into the area, the LNREDC exceeded its goal, bringing in more than 900 jobs and $140 in capital investment.

ABB – a multinational leader in power and automation technology for utility and industrial customers – celebrated the opening of its newest plant, located in 240,000-square foot facility at the Commerce Station Business Park off of N.C. 115 on Sept. 19. The $90 million investment is slated to bring 135 jobs to the area once the plant is fully staffed at the end of the year.

“Economic development folks dream about projects like these,” Broadway said.

Sally Ashworth, executive director of Visit Lake Norman, told business leaders it will partner with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority for a study that will estimate the economic impact of the recent Democratic National Convention on Mecklenburg County and 11 nearby counties.

Tourism Economic will conduct the study, which will cost Charlotte Center City Partners, the Charlotte Chamber, Charlotte Regional Partnership and CRVA about $20,000 to $30,000. Ashworth said part of the study will look at the economic impact on Lake Norman.

The 2008 DNC brought about $134 million to Denver, according to Denver and Colorado economic officials.

During the recent DNC convention, VLN worked with 21 restaurants to secure discounts for convention-goers and assembled visitors kits placed in rooms in 19 area hotels, Ashworth said. Discount cards were placed in 1,600 hotel rooms.

“We are not red; we are not blue,” Ashworth said. “We were focusing only on the green.”

She said lake area visitors spent about $23 million in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30. That’s a 21 percent increase from the $19 million spent by visitors during the previous year.

Lake-area events, such as sports tournaments and conventions, brought more than 81,800 visitors to Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson, she said. For each dollar that the towns spent to fund VLN, they have received about $52.17 back for their investment.

VLN worked to secure the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s International Tournament of Champions, held in local school gymnasiums, which brought 250 elite level wheelchair basketball players to the region.

“We received international media exposure while playing in our schools,” Ashworth said.

She added that VLN has placed a bid to host the Adult United States Tennis Association’s North Carolina Tennis State Championships for 2013 and 2014. Organizers expect both events to bring in about 1,500 participants to more than 100 area tennis courts.

Sounding off

“In the good economic times that we knew before 2008, it was not uncommon for an investor to build a speculative building – an office warehouse or some kind of shell building that could later be filled out by a company. In this moment, investors are very hesitant to build such things.”

– Davidson Mayor John Woods on Broadway’s comments