I have been very fortunate to be able to attend economic development courses because they improve my ability to be better at my job. In the most recent training course, I learned that economic developers spend a majority of their time in three areas: business startup, business retention and expansion (BRE), and business recruitment. The largest part of an economic developer’s job should be spent on BRE, then business startup, and finally business recruitment. This means all of the work I described in my last entry about business recruitment is the smallest part of my job. In this entry I will focus on the other two areas because they really have to do more with what an economic developer does at the local level.
So, let’s start with business retention and expansion since that is where the bulk of my job is. This is actually a portion of my job that I am going to be really focused on in 2015. I have done my research and I am ready to go to businesses and assist them however possible. An economic developer has to be there to help a business in need and assist when a business is ready to expand. It is also the economic developer’s job to make sure all of the existing businesses are aware of the programs that are out there designed specifically for them. There are 2 in particular that I am talking about; On-the-Job Training and WorkReady Communities.
On-the-Job (OTJ) Training can reimburse your business for up to 50% of the wages paid to new hires for up to 1040 hours. You will find your employees through the OTJ Program, and the staff with OTJ will make sure to find you employees who possess a proven work ethic with valuable skills gained from prior employment and education/training.
To be a Missouri WorkReady Community, each county has to first meet certain goals. Any employer that signs a Letter of Partnership is agreeing to recognize, prefer, or recommend the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) in their hiring process. The NCRC is a test that can be taken at the Nevada Career Center for free that will evaluate your skills so that an employer can better see beyond a resume what your qualifications are. So this program not only helps an employer find a qualified person for their business, but the test will help individuals determine their strengths for a given job. Now in order for Bates County to become a WorkReady Community, we have to have a certain number of individuals that take the NCRC and a certain number of businesses that sign the Letter of Partnership.
There are two other programs that are mostly thought of as being used towards business recruitment but can also be used for existing businesses, and those are Bates County’s Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ) and the state’s incentive program, Missouri Works. If a company is looking to expand and add employees they could qualify for these programs is they fit the criteria. Just as a refresher, the EEZ is property tax abatement and Missouri Works is retention of the state withholding tax of the new jobs. These are two programs could really help an existing business that wants to expand.
Business startup is the second piece to an economic developer’s work at the local level. This is where it is important for me to get out and get to know the community because I want them to be able to come to me if they have any business startup ideas. I am happy to say people have called me and asked questions about starting a business and possible locations. If you know of anybody that would like to start a business, they could qualify for any of the incentives and programs above, so please have them call me.
So that is what an economic developer does at the local level. Beyond these three main areas, I also have been working with the cities with grant writing and updating regulations and plans. I choose to do this because grants bring money into the county to help improve it. The projects Bates County have received grants for in the past year would not have been able to get accomplished if it were not for these grants. I have been working with the cities with the regulations and plans so they can be organized when a business is looking to locate in the area. A Comprehensive or Strategic Plan helps a business see we are looking to the future and are working to continue to improve Bates County. The Subdivision Regulations and Thoroughfare Plan can help a builder know the guidelines in place in order to start their development.
Through this blog entry and the last, I hope you can see there is never a dull moment in my job! Do not worry though, because I like it that way. I will continue to work and improve on all of these areas of my job and help the cities out the best I can so that we can continue to grow. As always, if you have any questions or if you are interested in more details about any of these programs and incentives, please call me!
I HOPE EVERYBODY HAS A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!