Cabarrus urged to pursue automotive, energy industries
CONCORD, N.C. — Cabarrus County’s reputation as a haven for motorsports can attract international companies looking to establish a U.S. presence, said a consultant who spoke at Wednesday’s Cabarrus Economic Development board meeting.
Jeannette Goldsmith, with Goldsmith Strategy cited the automotive industry as the top industry the county should pursue, calling it a “no brainer.”
But at the top of the list was the automotive industry. And that doesn’t necessarily mean car manufacturers, but could mean all the industries that support the automotive industry, such as a company that makes steering wheels or brakes or other parts.
Goldsmith pointed to the BMW facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and how many other companies provide parts directly to BMW. But there are also many companies that don’t serve BMW directly but supply parts to other businesses that do supply directly to BMW.
She said she could see a similar business model here, building off of the motorsports industry.
“I’m excited when I think about automotive suppliers for Cabarrus because I think that’s an easy sell,” Goldsmith said. “They are big companies with lots of different components, and if they have a motorsports component they are going to know this area, they are going to know this region, they are going to understand Cabarrus County and Charlotte and what that means. That makes your job all that much easier, because they know the region.”
Goldsmith said she could also see Cabarrus officials pursuing European and Asian companies looking to establish a foothold in the United States.
Such a move would require several steps, such as starting off with a North American sales operation and then a North American distribution location, followed by research and development and then manufacturing.
“So it’s going to be a little bit of a tip toe or baby steps, but I think there is going to be a lot of potential,” Goldsmith said.
She added there is also room for growth in the industry, citing the current operating capacity of companies.
“They are maxed out,” Goldsmith said. “We are selling cars at well over our 2007 rate. I think we are up to 17 million units a year, and our existing supply base just cannot handle that. So, there’s going to be a lot of growth in that area.”
Presenting Cabarrus County as part of the Charlotte area will also impress international businesses, she said.
“Charlotte U.S.A. is an international city, easy to get to Europe from Charlotte,” Goldsmith said.
Here are some highlights regarding the other industries Goldsmith said Cabarrus Economic Development should target:
» Energy — “Obviously there is a big push around the country, around the globe, talking about clean energy and clean energy sources. Energy generation storage and distribution is another big area that we are spending a lot of time talking about,” Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith talked about partnering with Alevo, which moved into the old Philip Morris facility last year, and is working on battery storage technology. Businesses that could compliment Alevo would be a natural fit.
Also, Goldsmith said Cabarrus should take advantage of Charlotte’s efforts to target the energy industry.
“Their resources are more vast than our resources, and if they are targeting a specific industry we can piggy back on some of those efforts,” Goldsmith said. “If they are going to trade shows or meeting with companies we can piggy back on that effort. They are going to bring the companies and the prospects into the Charlotte region, and it’s our job to sell Cabarrus as the best place for that particular company.”
» Food and Beverage — Cabarrus could focus on “specialty food processing” -- confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural and organic foods.
“You are not going to be a bottler, you are not going to be a major food processing facility -- this is going to be more of a specialty type of a food processing operation,” Goldsmith. She added it could be an opportunity for distribution.
Goldsmith said the county could also partner with the North Carolina Research Campus and its research into nutrition as a way to combat major illnesses.
» Aerospace — “This is a growing industry in the Southeast; however it is a reluctant one. This is a tough sell,” Goldsmith said. “This is a long-term strategy. Most of the supply chain still does not believe that we can build planes in the Southeast.” She said Boeing in South Carolina is helping change that perception and could lead to development here.
Margie Bukowski, senior vice president of Cabarrus Economic Development, added that there are already aerospace industry-based businesses in North Carolina, including Monroe and Greensboro, that could help lead to developments here.
» Back office — Goldsmith said Cabarrus County can target major companies that are headquartered in Charlotte, but could have offices that don’t deal directly with the public located here. “The back office functions: IT, the account folks, do not need to be in $50 a square foot space. They need to be out here in $8 a square foot space,” Goldsmith said.
» Logistics — “Logistics is something that is here, you’ve got a lot of vacant space in the logistics field,” Goldsmith said. “You need to try and go out and fill that space for sure.”
Contact reporter Michael Knox at 704-789-9133.