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Local Economic Leaders and AdvantageWest Board Gather in Jefferson; Old WHS To Become Business Park?

By Jesse Wood

Aug. 16, 2012. At Jefferson Landing in Ashe County, AdvantageWest Economic Development Group organized a gathering of economic development, community and business leaders to attend its board meeting and listen to economic development leaders from Ashe, Alleghany, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties.

Joe Furman of the Watauga County Economic Development Commission discussed the assets and targets of Watauga County.

Targets included a business park because, as he said, there are “virtually no inventory sites” for manufacturing. He said the county is planning a Class A business park on county property.

“We hope to develop that because manufacturing employment is 3 percent,” Furman said. “We need to balance out and do better than that.”

When one of the AdvantageWest board members asked if the  land that sits the old Watauga High School, which is currently being demolished, would become that new business park, Furman said, “That’s where we would like to have the business park.”

Because no official decision has been made as of yet, he smiled and wouldn’t elaborate.

Furman said the county’s goal is to target entrepreneurs and other companies manufacturing:

–         Computer system design services

–         Sporting athletic goods manufacturers

–         Surgical and medical instruments and surgical appliance supplies

–         Analytical lab instrument manufacturing

–         Research development biotechnology

When mentioning one goal to encourage companies to manufacture sporting athletic goods in Watauga County, he spoke about Misty Mountain Threadworks, a company that has been making climbing equipment for the past 20 years in Valle Crucis. He added that the company employs 10 people.

“They are doing so well, they have a contract with the military,” Furman said.

He spoke about ECR Software located in downtown Boone during the discussion of computer system design services. He said ECR Software create the self checkouts you see in grocery stores and elsewhere, adding that ECR markets those worldwide.

The assets of Watauga County, Furman noted, are its highly educated workforce; ASU; Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and surrounding medical community; four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter; the abundance of financial institutions; its status as a commercial hub in Northwest North Carolina; and the planning of the business park.

Furman also mentioned Watauga County being a Certified Entrepreneurial Community Program. Watauga was the second county in the state have this distinction. The CECP is an economic development strategy to help municipalities become entrepreneur ready.

(AdvantageWest website states, “That means the overall business climate, policies, regulations and oppurtunities to learn and grow are simple to find and available. It also means there’s a positive enthusiastic attitude that permeates the culture. One that asks, “How can we help you start and succeed at business?”)

Furman ended by saying, “We have many assets and hope to diversify our economy more by encouraging folks to locate to Watauga County.”

For more information from the meeting and what exactly is AdvantageWest, check back at www.hcpress.com later today.