The first job of industry recruitment is to bring jobs to a county. The second is to create a tax base to provide services to a county’s residents. A third obligation, we think, is to bring an employer to a county for as little cost to taxpayers as possible.
Chris Johnson, Johnston County’s next director of economic development, hinted at this third obligation when he spoke recently to a reporter. In his job as industry recruiter, Mr. Johnson said he planned to work closely with the county’s towns.
From a cost standpoint, this makes a great deal of sense, because towns already have the infrastructure that industries require – water , sewer, natural gas. Towns also provide services that industries hope they won’t need – fire protection and police protection, for example.
Towns are also centers of population, meaning they are closest to likely candidates to fill the jobs an industry will create. That’s a win-win, because when people live close to their jobs, they spend less getting to and from work, and government spends less on roads.
It’s good then that Mr. Johnson wants the county’s towns to be partners in industry recruitment in Johnston.
It’s also good that Mr. Johnson knows that not every new job is an industry job. Johnston County, because of its highways, has had good luck lately in landing distribution jobs – from food distributor Sysco to medical-device maker and distributor Becton Dickinson. But job growth has been equally strong in retail and services – from the explosion of retail in the Cleveland community to the growth in hotels along Industrial Park Drive in Smithfield.
In his role as executive director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp., Mr. Johnson’s recruitment expertise was in retail and services, so that experience will no doubt come in handy in his new job.
Industry recruitment is hard, and Johnston County is at a disadvantage because it is not a wealthy county that can offer generous incentives. But the county has its strengths, including its roads, and we think Mr. Johnson is a good choice to capitalize on those strengths.