Economic Development Corporations Can Help Your Company Grow
All business owners and CEOs know that growth — whether its financial growth, employee development, or expansion of facilities – is critical to the continued success of their companies. And, many speculate that there are resources out there somewhere that could help their companies achieve that growth. But, how do you find and implement those resources? That’s where Economic Development Corporations (EDCs) come in.
As the name indicates, EDCs are organizations focused on working to maintain a strong economy in their specific regions – whether national, state, or local – by attracting new businesses and strengthening already established companies.
When the owners of Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the mobility industry, were trying to find a location suitable to start up their company in 1987, they discovered the local EDC in Albion, Michigan. They learned that the Albion EDC had a Business Incubator with space to rent and loan funds available for new business start-ups.
Craig Carrel, co-owner of Team 1 Plastics, said that the Incubator had “the perfect amount of space for our start-up – 5,000 square feet. It wasn’t too big, but had ample space that we could use for expansion in the future.” For five years, Team 1 Plastics thrived and grew in the Incubator. In 1992, the company moved out of the Incubator into a brand-new manufacturing facility.
More recently, Albion EDC’s Business Incubator became the home of Sinclair Designs and Engineering, a manufacturer of Solar Ground, Flat Roof, Carports, and Dual Axis Tracking systems. According to Amy Deprez, President and CEO of Albion EDC, the company started out as “a father and son in a garage.” She said that with help from the Albion EDC, the company moved into the Incubator. As their business expanded, they took over the whole Incubator space and, eventually, bought the building with plans to expand the facility. Deprez said, “The growth that they have experienced over the last couple of years is incredible! It proves anything can happen.”
EDCs are not just helpful to new start-ups. They also want established companies to grow. Deprez said, “I’m a firm believer, and so are many other EDCs, that sustainable growth is with your existing companies. So, we want to make sure that they are aware of programs that are out there to assist them.”
For the Albion EDC, that means having a robust Retention Visit program. Christine Bowman is the resource at the Albion EDC who is tasked with visiting local businesses, meeting with a company leader, such as the owner or CFO or someone in Human Resources. According to Deprez, “Most times, it’s just a quick conversation, and then, we might follow up with some paperwork and more information on some programs. Once in a while, they’ll say, ‘You know, we are thinking about expanding.’ That’s when we can get involved and say, ‘Don’t expand until we’ve put incentives in place that make it fair.’” The Retention Visits “build that relationship so the company knows there’s somebody on their side.”
“The Economic Toolbox is very diverse. There are lists and lists and lists of things that we can do!” Deprez said. She mentioned a few specifics tools that the Albion EDC uses: training programs, talent investment agencies, tax incentives, and a revolving loan fund.
The revolving loan fund is a tool that Team 1 Plastics has utilized several times during times of growth and expansions as well as during recessions. “It has helped us bridge our financing needs during those times,” said Carrel. The Albion EDC has also helped the company with other business issues. “They have been a great resource to help us with city, state, and federal issues and have helped us navigate them successfully.”
There are many EDCs located throughout the United States. The U.S. Economic Development Administration website has an online directory of state and local EDCs. This directory can help a company get started on building that relationship with an EDC. Deprez, who has a combination of more than 20 years of experience working at state and local EDCs, said that it doesn’t really matter which level of EDC a company chooses to work with because, “there’s lots of doors into a local EDC or the State. We work hand in hand. We’re here to serve the companies.”
She added, “I’ve done this now for a long time. I’m still as passionate about it as I was when I started because it changes every day. You see successes. You see business owners take that step out of the garage, and all of a sudden, they’re employing people! That’s incredible and exciting and fun to watch!”