A new program in the planning stages from Randolph County Economic Development Authority would help small startup companies with a need for inexpensive space.

During the July meeting, director Bryant Whaley announced the beginning stages of "Rent a Desk." He is currently in the process of designing and costing out materials to remodel 1,500 square feet of the RCEDA building into rentable space for new startup companies. The warehouse space would be turned into eight to ten cubicles with a desk and chairs in each cubical. A person will be responsible for a computer and any other supplies.

The only cost to a person would be to rent a desk. The rent will be month to month at $50 a month, and they will cover all of their expenses. Internet, power and utilities will be included.

The program is designed for someone who has just started a new company or is operating a small company who needs space, but can't afford a big office space in town. They can rent a desk, and as the business progresses and grows, then they can move on to bigger locations.

The RCEDA will aid in business counseling and mentoring and serve as a liaison to other resources. RCEDA's goal is to become a small business incubator. It is hoped that construction will begin within the next six to eight weeks.

Work-based survey

Whaley distributed the results of the work-based survey data conducted by Dr. Matt Ulmer at the Extension office in Auburn. Over 400 completed the survey and the results were clear. People in the county are concerned about wages/benefits, healthcare and quality of life.

"The data matches exactly what I am hearing from the state level," said Whaley. "Rural Alabama must be able to compete with high wage jobs and have a quality of life that attracts talent. People used to go where business were, but now business will follow people. Economic development is no longer about smokestacks. We must be able to maintain the businesses we have here locally because the best recruiter to a local area is an existing industry."

A local industry expanding 50 jobs is the same as a new 250-person job plant in a major city. Economic development also encompasses community development, retail and tourism.

Community Spotlight

Whaley is in the process of scheduling a "Community Spotlight," which will focus on the county's workforce strengths and weaknesses, sponsored with the University in Alabama. The event will be a combination of community leaders, service providers, plant managers, HR representatives and state personal. The RCEDA is also in the process of scheduling a Legislative Day in Montgomery.

Leadership Skills class

RCEDA will host an Alabama Industrial Development Training Leadership Skills 1 class on Aug. 19 and 20. The course is free and anyone can sign up. The course is over two days and is from 8 a.m. -4 p.m. at the RCEDA office in Roanoke. Breakfast and snacks will be provided.

Industrial park plans

RCEDA will partner with Lathan & Associates to help development a "master plan" for Randolph County Industrial Park in Roanoke beside Highway 431. Lathan will develop plans to see how two buildings would fit in the park compared to one large structure. This is at no cost to the RCEDA board.

Other business

Gene Crouch and Butch Jackson were guests and asked for help in gathering information about lake homes and the population growth over the recent years. The RCEDA recognizes the importance of the lake and will aid in an endeavor to see that community continue to grow.

The RCEDA is also in the process of planning a small business summit sometime this fall. The summit will be a combination of JSU, SU, local banks, board, media, and stakeholders.

Whaley is working with Alex Flachsbart of Opportunity Alabama to market three to five properties in the Opportunity Zone.

The board declined the nomination of Jim Jones of Valley due to a conflict of contractual agreements; therefore, the RCEDA is currently seeking someone to fill their grant writer vacancy. The position will be paid on a commission basis per grants awarded and will report to the RCEDA Director. All resumes should be sent to bwhaley@randolphcountyeda.com

The RCEDA is also accepting applications for a work-based learner. The WBL must be between the ages of 16-24 and apply at Roanoke Career Center.

Director's report

Whaley attended multiple training courses during July, including an Auburn Government & Economic Development Institute "Business & Industry Marketing & Attraction" and the weeklong "Intensive Economic Training Course." Whaley has completed the Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA) Leadership Institute Program and will be award a certificate at the Governor's Luncheon during the 2019 EDAA Summer Conference in Perdido Beach. Whaley also attended multiple meetings across the state and county.

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