W. Brian Hiatt has served as Concord's City Manager since 1998. He came to Concord from Hickory where he served as Assistant City Manager for over 10 years. Brian holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in History and Government Service from Appalachian State University where he was a summa cum laude graduate, and a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Active in the community, Brian serves as President of the Academic Learning Center and is on the Board of Directors for the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation and the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County. He currently serves as Chairman of the Cabarrus County United Way. He is a Past-President of both the Concord Rotary Club, where he was named Rotarian of the Year in 2012, and the Lake Hickory Rotary Club. In 2002, Brian served as the Chairman of the United Way Campaign in Cabarrus County. He is also a former board member of Hospice of Cabarrus County. He is currently the Past President of the North Carolina City and County Management Association. Brian was a member of the Board of Directors of the NC League of Municipalities from 2004 through 2008 and now serves on its General Government Legislative Action Committee. Having a desire to see young people better educated in government, Brian previously served as Chairman of the Civic Education Committee of the North Carolina City and County Managers Association and on the Steering Committee of the North Carolina Civic Education Consortium. He is recognized as a Credentialed City Manager by the International City and County Management Association. Brian is married to Julie, and they have two grown children, Andrew and Erin.
Developing "product" to boost our local economy
"Product" is now the most important thing companies look for in local communities when adding jobs and investment through expansion or new locations. Simply put, product is a site or preferably modern buildings that can be shown to prospective employers. Economic developers agree this is a key to effectively compete against other communities.
The traditional way to develop product was buying a farm or other large parcel of land near a busy road, giving it a fancy business park name, then installing a sign and waiting for the businesses to come. Those days are over. Representatives of most businesses looking for space for an expansion or new location are on very tight timeframes. They now come into communities looking for existing buildings that can accommodate their needs. If they are willing to construct a building themselves, they insist on sites where infrastructure is available and grading has already taken place or is minimal.
Locally, we can point to the example of the tremendous effort that S&D Coffee went through to determine where they wanted to locate their expansion. We are grateful that S&D found that there was product in Concord they could use to meet their needs. Fortunately, we will benefit from jobs and investment in our community, rather than seeing them go to South Carolina or some other location.
When location scouts come to Concord for a visit, they have usually narrowed down their search to sites in three or four states. During their trip here, they may visit two or three sites in North Carolina, and generally a couple in South Carolina. In Concord, we are showing them sites owned and developed by private business people. Often we are competing against counties that have used public funds to purchase the land and provide the infrastructure for a business park, and who then offer the property at discounted rates or even for free. Some of the counties also invest in speculative buildings to be ready for those prospects looking for an existing building to make their investment and create the new jobs.
Concord has the twelfth largest population among North Carolina municipalities, but it is seventh in land area within the corporate limits. That is because Concord is blessed with privately owned developable land within or directly adjacent to the City. For example, around 3,000 acres are zoned for business development, including the former Philip Morris property, near the four corners of the new interchange where George W. Liles Parkway and Concord Parkway will intersect. My previous columns have detailed the utility and transportation improvements underway to prepare for the future. Property near the George W. Liles Parkway expansion, the Derita Road widening from Poplar Tent to the Concord Regional Airport, and areas adjacent to the improved I-85 are being made even more attractive by these infrastructure investments.
The challenge now is having shovel-ready sites and/or buildings for prospects to acquire. Since we are working with private landowners, this often requires partnerships to make the pricing competitive in comparison with publicly owned parks. For example, the City Council recently approved agreements on four speculative buildings at three different locations in Concord. In these cases, private developers will receive rebates over a three year period for a portion of the new tax revenues generated from their buildings. The rebates are only granted once the project is completed, jobs created, and after they pay these new taxes. The City's always receives a net gain in revenue.
Here in Concord, we will need to continue developing the infrastructure and buildings employers desire as they as explore sites in the southeast or across the United States. While it requires some investment of public funds, the Concord City Council has shown they believe these public-private partnerships are preferable; the benefit will be more jobs and investment to our community.