While a couple of opening speakers addressed how Surry County businesses can successfully market their products around the world, the keynote address at the county’s first-ever Surry Global Initiative luncheon was more about promoting the economic development efforts of Gov. Pat McCrory.
The event, held at Cross Creek Country Club Friday, was attended by about 80 community and business leaders gathered to hear from Tony Almeida, senior advisor to the governor for jobs and the economy.
With a presentation entitled “a new blueprint for economic development,” Almeida’s talk focused on how he is helping to implement strategic priorities for job growth in the state.
The advisor talked about efforts the governor has undertaken to stimulate economic development in the state, noting that presently the state is ranked 37th in per-capita income and is struggling with a nearly double-digit unemployment rate.
“Who here is satisfied with the status quo?” he asked rhetorically. “Because I’m not, and the governor’s not. That’s what the governor has asked us to look at.”
But Almeida said the state has strong leadership in Raleigh.
“He is on his game,” he said.
Almeida said tax reform efforts will help both small businesses and economic development efforts in North Carolina by lowering corporate tax rates to be more in line with competing states like Virginia, South Carolina and even Texas.
“All of you who are business owners will see a reduction in your taxes,” he said.
Other efforts include regulatory reform to ensure that current and future regulations on businesses “do not stifle the growth of our small businesses.”
“The governor has challenged every cabinet secretary that we want to see a new culture of customer service in the state of North Carolina,” he said.
In addition, Almeida said the state needs to strengthen its education system to provide a better-qualified work force when students enter the labor force.
“The governor often hears that employers can’t find enough qualified, skilled workers to fill the positions we need to fill,” he said. “Graduates must be better equipped, with the tools they need to enter the work force.
“We have this gap between the jobs that are available and the skill level of workers,” Almeida added. “We can’t seem to connect the unemployed and under-employed worker with the jobs available. We as a state need to better align our work force development resources.”
The senior advisor said the current administration wants to support small businesses.
“Sixty-five to 70 percent of job growth comes from small businesses,” he said.
As part of that effort, the governor wants to create a “one-stop web portal” where small business owners can go to access all forms, permit application and other necessary paperwork.
“We also want to increase the access to capital for entrepreneurs in the state,” he said. “The opportunity this state has to put money into its great start-ups is a huge opportunity.”
He said an effort to form a group known as the Partnership for Prosperity, featuring executives from large businesses in the state, will create an “outstanding sales and marketing team for North Carolina.”
The organization, a public-private partnership, will be in a position to “better leverage state funding with private-sector dollars.”
Almeida closed by saying the governor is focused on rural prosperity and entrepreneurship.
“We want things to happen. Companies to be formed,” he concluded. “There are a lot of good things ahead.”
Prior to Almeida’s presentation, Derek Chen, director of foreign operations for the state Department of Commerce, told the group that international trade is “one of the best ways to maintain and grow a business.”
“We live, whether we like it or now, in a global economy,” he said. “From the moment we get up to the moment we go to bed, we touch international products. We need to take a play from (overseas companies) playbook and think about how we can get our products over there. We even have a competitive advantage. Our products are good. They’re consistently well-built. We have to take advantage of these opportunities. If you have a product and you aren’t exporting, you’re leaving money on the table.”
Debbie Strader, the director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Export Assistance Center, told the group that there are resources available to help even small business owners market themselves internationally.
“You don’t have to know everything,” she said. “You just have to know who to contact. We’ll get you to the right people.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.