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Speaker: Area should promote its assets
Consulting firm head says area has much to offer
Betty McIntosh, managing director for Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Consulting Group, speaks to local leaders during an economic development event Friday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Sunday, June 23, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin staff writer
The Henry County-Martinsville area needs to tout its assets — the New College Institute (NCI), Patrick Henry Community College and the Harvest Foundation as well as area officials’ dedication to improving the community’s economy.
That was the message from Betty McIntosh, the managing director for Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Consulting Group in Georgia, who addressed area business and community leaders at the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Friday. McIntosh was the second speaker in an economic development series sponsored by the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.
The local area, like many others, was hard-hit by economic losses of the last several years, she said.
But local officials are committed to and have a passion to revitalize the area, she said. She added that Henry County and Martinsville have many other strengths, some of which she said she refers to as “best-kept secrets.”
For instance, the New College Institute (NCI), Patrick Henry Community College and the Harvest Foundation are among the “incredible ... amazing assets,” she said.
“You play on your strengths,” McIntosh said, to ensure that people outside of Virginia are aware of those strengths. That, she added, is a prime way to help showcase the area and set it apart from other competing localities.
If she was working with a client interested in locating in Henry County and Martinsville, “I’d probably go to the state” economic development office and start there, she said.
Also, “taking care of your existing businesses” is critical to maintaining a strong economic base for a number of reasons, she said.
Not only do existing businesses provide jobs and tax revenues, but they also can provide a wealth of information to companies considering locating here, she said.
When she is working with a client, “we want (potential) employers to talk to existing companies,” McIntosh said.
There is “a lot of movement” right now among companies that may have held off on expansions or other projects due to financial/economic concerns, she said.
Several factors are responsible for that, she said. For instance, capital markets have freed up and companies are able to get financing, and companies that survived the recession are “right-sized” now and “poised for growth” due to the down-sizing needed during the recession, McIntosh said.
Incentives are another factor, she said. Incentives “used to be nice” to get, “then they were good. Now, they are” needed, she said.
However, McIntosh cautioned that no amount of incentives will make a bad deal good. Incentives only make a good deal better, she said.
Because of advances in technology, fewer jobs are created when companies do expand or relocate, according to McIntosh. She estimated that the number of jobs a company typically creates now is 17 to 35 people. “That is the new model.”
Visiting the area since Thursday, McIntosh said she did not have enough information to comment on the area’s weaknesses.
But, she noted, “there is nothing glaring. This is a smaller community, and it’s not going to be a community for every” economic development project.
It will, however, be a good fit for others, she said.
For example, Rolls Royce has operations in Prince George County. While Henry County and Martinsville may not be a prime location for the “first tier (group) of suppliers” who must locate near those manufacturing operations, McIntosh said “when you get to the second and third tier suppliers — who are supplying the first tier suppliers — they can be (located) farther away.”
McIntosh, who has more than 20 years of experience working with major U.S. and international clients on expansions, has represented clients in the automotive, consumer markets, industrial products, pharmaceuticals, health care, steel, telecommunications, information and technology solutions, and retail industries, including Honda, The Gillette Co. (Duracell), and several others.
She also has conducted site selections and assisted in developing financial strategies for numerous clients, and obtains tax and operational savings for various types of projects. She is nationally recognized as an expert on economic development issues, according to her online biography.
McIntosh said Friday that the process by which a company decides to locate in a particular community is data driven by a number of factors, from demographics — available workforce, buildings, sites and the like — to incentives and a willingness of officials to “come to the table” and negotiate.
Martinsville City Councilman Gene Teague asked McIntosh to identify “the one thing we need to do that we are not” doing to build the local economic base.
“There is no silver bullet,” she responded. “There are a lot of balls to juggle,” such as working with projects that are both active and inactive while serving existing businesses. All that must be done while working to attract potential new projects.
“You’ve got the bones. You’ve got the good things” such as NCI, PHCC, Harvest and the willingness of officials/economic developers and others to work together to make a deal happen, McIntosh said.
“I think getting the news out ... Who is Martinsville? ... What are your strengths and dealing with your weaknesses” is key, she said.
“Making sure that message comes together” and building a public relations campaign is imperative, she added.