Attracting new industry to a small town in a good economy is hard.
In a bad economy, it can be nearly impossible.
The pieces that have to come together to make it happen aren’t as simple as they might appear. You can’t simply decide to build an industrial park and post a sign out front that says “new industry wanted” and expect the jobs to start flowing in.
For that reason we have to applaud all the players involved in Plastek’s decision to locate a new plant in Richmond County.
There were probably hundreds of locations, maybe thousands that they could have picked, but Hamlet was the choice.
Location was part of the equation. The company makes plastic parts that are used in a variety of items. The parts are just that, parts, not completed products. They must in turn be shipped to other locations where they are assembled into something a consumer might buy. Plastek already has customers in North Carolina, and Hamlet is central to many of them.
That makes good business sense. Richmond County is a hub for interstate transportation and has a solid rail system. It didn’t just happen that way. It’s been years in the works.
Another factor is a trained or trainable labor force. The closing of the Rexam plant last year put more than 220 people out of work. These are people who have experience working with injection molding and plastic products.
On the training end, we have Richmond Community College which stands ready and able to groom new workers as Plastek needs them. Again, it’s not just a fluke. North Carolina has been at the forefront of the nation’s community college system and part of that is technical training. The state made the decision years ago that this was a good thing and had the guts to put their money where their mouth was.
Finally it comes down to dollars. Plastek is a business and a business must always look at the bottom line to stay alive. For all the intrinsic positive things about Richmond County, the decision to invest $19 million in Hamlet had to make solid financial sense. That’s where the State of North Carolina came to bat with a big carrot, not a stick.
Plastek was awarded a $250,000 grant from the state’s One North Carolina Fund, an economic development recruitment tool. It also qualifies for a Job Development Investment Grant from the state Economic Investment Committee. That could also earn the company up to about $2 million over the next nine years.
The JDIG allows a company to receive a grant worth 65 percent of state personal income tax withholdings from jobs created for each year the company meets annual performance targets.
Rick Sago understands how it took all the pieces of the puzzle to come together to make the Plastek deal a reality. He was the county’s economic developer long before he became county manager.
“This just goes to show the success you can have with a focused group of people who are all working toward one goal,” Sago said.
For Richmond County, Plastek’s decision means a lot. Here is a company that looked at all the numbers and all the factors and determined that Richmond County is where they want to be. It’s not a case where a company bought a company, which bought a company, which bought a company that just so happened to have a plant in Hamlet. Plastek says that it’s here for the long haul, and we take them at their word.
Gov. Bev Perdue was there Monday to make the announcement of Plastek’s decision. Yet in a big way all the people who were in that room at Cole Auditorium and hundreds more were key players in making it happen. They all deserve a pat on the back.