Lee JobReady discusses Chamber, EDC merger

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

A newly created economic development organization could help bridge the gap between the worlds of education and business — or at least that’s the theory.

Members of Lee County JobReady Partnership Council, an organization focused on supporting career and technical education within local schools, met with Lee County’s economic development consultant Crystal Morphis Wednesday afternoon to discuss how an all-inclusive economic development organization — which would include the Lee County Economic Development Corporation and Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce — can further their mission.

“As you know, economic development is much broader and wider than ever before,” Morphis said. “And this changing nature of economic development changes how organizations need to collaborate today.”

The top concern for businesses looking to relocate or expand is whether there is an available, skilled workforce, she said.

“Realtors like to say the three Ls [are] location, location, location,” Morphis said. “For economic development, the three Ls [are] labor, labor, labor.”

There must be a long-term vision to help the educational system develop the courses and training needed for a vibrant workforce, she said, and this new organization can serve as a liaison between the two worlds.

JobReady members were asked to list Lee County’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities with regard to economic development.

Opportunities and strengths included Central Carolina Community College, support of parents for the school system, water and sewer capabilities within the county, nonprofit network, location, infrastructure and proximity to Fort Bragg.

Weaknesses and threats encompassed funding, lack of cooperation among governmental leaders, retail and commercial “draws” for young people and families, lack of civic engagement, lack of vision for the future and stagnation.    

At the end of the meeting, Chamber President Bob Joyce said more community input needs to be gathered to make the joint organization a success.

“We’ve got a lot of opportunity here in Lee County,” he said. “The models we are looking at have been very successful in other communities our size. We have a lot of opportunity, and we need more input.”

Morphis and Joyce said the draft structure of the new organization should be available for review by Jan. 1 before a year-long fundraising campaign begins.