The Mississippi Economic Development Council (MEDC) announced this week that Hancock County is the recipient of the 2017 State Community Economic Development Award (CEDA) for its Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) Program.
The program is a new, innovative partnership of the Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission, the Hancock Chamber of Commerce and the Hancock Community Development Foundation. The program was launched in 2016 to demonstrate the importance of retaining and expanding existing prime and service industry businesses that represent 70-80% of new investment and job creation in a community.
A strong BRE program returns investment to the community, is less costly than recruitment programs, promotes partnerships in economic growth with the decision makers of local businesses, and, supports business recruitment through peer-to-peer marketing.
To manage the program, the Hancock Chamber engaged the manpower of the two non-profit boards and the participants in the Chamber’s Annual Leadership Class to conduct interview surveys. The Port and Harbor Staff conducted interviews with prime companies. During year one, combined, the companies surveyed employ over 3,500. Over the last three years, these companies have collectively added 220 jobs. More than half of the companies plan to invest $247.6 million in expansions and are expected to create more than 2,300 new jobs. From these surveys, issues affecting business growth and retention were revealed.
From the surveys, the County scored extremely well and in many instances well above national averages. This was particularly true in the areas of emergency services, K-12 education and economic development agencies. Some areas of improvement included access to quality childcare, particularly for shift workers and labor availability for low to mid skill workers.
To address these issues, leadership in Hancock County formed a Workforce Development Committee, bringing area educators, workforce development professionals and industry human resource managers together to craft a solution. One of the goals of the committee is to be nationally recognized as an ACT certified Work Ready Community. To learn more and sign up to support the program, employers in Hancock County can go on line to www.workreadycommunities.org/MS/045 and www.workreadycommunities.org/business/form.