Spec buildings and workforce training emerge as top priorities to grow Rowan economy

Spec buildings and workforce training emerge as top priorities to grow Rowan economy

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The results are now in on the Community Forum held recently in Rowan County.

WBTV covered the forum and at the time, steering committee head Pete Teague said that a summary of what was discussed and recommended for the economic growth of Rowan County would be compiled.

On Wednesday Robert Van Geons, RowanWORKS Executive Director, provided the following:

The development of spec buildings and workforce training were top priorities at the most recent Community Forum held on March 25 at the Rowan County Agricultural Extension Center.

The Community Forum Project, spearheaded by the Gateway Partners, began in March 2014 with the intent to facilitate community dialogue and create a shared community vision for Rowan County.

Over 150 community leaders attended the forum, which highlighted successful economic development projects throughout North Carolina.

Ted Abernathy, an economic development, policy, and strategic planning expert, led a much needed discussion about Rowan County's economic development efforts.

Following the presentations, forum attendees were divided into small groups to discuss their priorities for local economic development action.

Individual surveys were also collected to identify areas of interest and commitment of attendees.

Responses from the audience included strategies for: economic development, workforce education and training, government policy, transportation, marketing and public relations, entrepreneurship, and quality of life.

Most attendees made personal commitments to volunteerism and service on priority initiatives ranging from mentoring in the schools to strategic planning for a shared community vision.

"Participants demonstrated a genuine interest and passion for a better Rowan County," said steering committee Chair, Pete Teague. "There was overwhelming support for us to tell a positive story and build a shared vision for the county, city, and municipalities."

The need for a solid infrastructure to support economic development was reiterated throughout the day, especially for speculative building development and workforce training.

"Our keynote speaker and panel inspired us to explore and leverage our assets, while also confirming some of the work that we are currently doing," said Robert Van Geons, executive director of RowanWORKS.

"Collaborative projects are underway to address branding, workforce training, and entrepreneurship which align with the strategies that emerged from this conversation. We look forward to sharing more about these efforts in the coming weeks and months."

This fourth Community Forum focused on Economic Development, while additional community forums, targeting specific strategies, will be scheduled throughout the year. Elaine Spalding, president of the

Chamber said, "We believe that business and community leaders and private citizens must work together for our community to grow and thrive. We are excited about the future of Rowan County. Together, we can create a better future for all of us."

The Community Forum Steering Committee is chaired by Pete Teague, Dixon Hughes Goodman, and is comprised of representatives from the Gateway Building partners including: Downtown Salisbury, Inc.,

Communities in Schools of Rowan County, The Land Trust of Central North Carolina, Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, RowanWORKS Economic Development, and Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors' Bureau.

The committee has received financial support from the Blanche and Julian Robertson Foundation to further develop a shared community vision.