Joanna Helms, Economic Development Director for the Town of Apex was our special guest speaker this evening. Prior to being hired as the first Economic Development Director in Apex Joanna spent 21 years doing the job in Goldsboro. But since she grew up in Apex and even attended Apex High School she was ready to come back about the same time that the position opened in here almost four years ago now.
She started us off with some guidelines about what her department does and does not do. Their mission is to recruit and retain businesses that will have a direct impact on the economy of Apex. This means they focus on business to business companies typically in the fields of Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing, Clean Technologies, Distribution, Wholesale and Information Technology. They do not work with retail businesses, hotels, restaurants and professional services or any of those kinds of businesses.
One of the most important things, and something that Apex specifically needs more of, is large parcels of land to develop and existing buildings that can be quickly deployed for companies looking to move to this market. In her first year she sought out landowners to find a suitable situation. After a year of discussions and two more years of legal work a site has been found which is 121 acres and is near an existing business park. And the town has already been showing it to at least one company that is considering the location. The agreement in place is that it can be used in a variety of ways from a minimum of 10 acres to the entire site if that is necessary which gives the town a high degree of flexibility and makes the site more attractive to potential businesses.
Another change that is in progress is the development of a Co-Working space in a downtown office building. The space will be an inexpensive option for startup companies where they can cooperate with other startups, share space, ideas and even get some free education by programs provided by the town. The town is already working with a building owner and a management company to get this going. Rent will be month to month so startup businesses don’t have to take on a 2 year lease which can be very risky for a brand new business. The space will have six “suites” each of which will be enough space for 2 or 3 people to work.
Finally, Apex is recognizing small businesses with a CASE program. CASE stands for “Certified Apex Small Enterprise” and this is for businesses with 25 or fewer employees and consists of a letter from the mayor and a sign for the window. It is good marketing for companies this size.