Helping existing firms key to economic stability

By John Peters

November 21, 2013

It is not an uncommon occurrence — a prospective business visits a locality, or sometimes several localities, alerting local officials it is considering moving to the community. Part of that communication often involves a discussion on economic incentives the local and state government can put together to bring the firm to the community.

Many times, which direction a company goes ultimately is determined by who offers the best incentive.

Oftentimes lost in the constant search for new jobs is existing business, and a local government doing what it can to retain those business, even set them up for additionaly growth.

In recent years, however, both Surry County and Mount Airy officials, spurred by the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, have turned their attention to helping local businesses in addition to recruiting new firms. Several times the local governments have been able to offer incentives to help keep a business here, or to help it take steps toward growing.

The county commissioners did that again this week when it approved an incentive package for Weyerhauser Co., a wood and timber products company with a facility in Elkin.

The package is up to $85,000 in county resources to be used to help pay for providing sewer service to the business. This is not a simple hand-out, however, because Weyerhauser will spend about $770,000 to extend sewer lines from the property border to the plant.

More than 130 people work at the plant, at an average annual salary of more than $46,000. Those are good jobs for the county, and a good, valuable facility operating within its borders. While the county cannot afford to give out money and resources to every business within its borders, it is good to see county officials willing to extend some incentives to major employers who need work to remain profitable while operating in the county.

Retaining jobs in this competitive economy is as valuable as landing new ones, and both the economic development partnership and the county commissioners should be supported in their efforts to do so.