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News State / Region Jenkins gives review, Opportunity NC to launch in Macon County

County Commissioners Ronnie Beale, middle, and Jimmy Tate attended the EDC meeting Tuesday to review new initiatives that EDC Director Tommy Jenkins has set into motion. Photo: Chad SimonsMacon County’s Economic Development Commission met for the first time this year on Tuesday, Jan. 17. EDC Director, Tommy Jenkins, offered a review of his latest efforts to retain and attract businesses to the area, while welcoming Macon County’s JobLink Career Center manager, Dale West, to the meeting. West attended the meeting to inform EDC board members about their organization’s latest initiative to put people back to work.

The new liaisons to the EDC board, Commissioners Ronnie Beale and Jimmy Tate, attended the meeting. Commissioner Beale, county manager Jack Horton, and Dale West gave their support to Jenkins, stating that they are really pleased with what Jenkins has done so far as the leader of Macon County’s EDC. In examining Jenkins’ report to the EDC board, it is clear that he has maintained a busy schedule for the past several months. His monthly report to the board is mandated in his contract with the county, a requirement aimed at increasing transparency between the EDC board and Maconians.

Before the meeting commenced, board members voted to appoint Ed Shatley to retain his role as chairman of the EDC board for another year. Board members then chose Mark West to continue to serve in the role as vice-chairman to the board. Following their votes to appoint Shatley and West back into their leadership positions for 2012, the board moved on to discuss other items on the agenda.

In early January, Jenkins met with Phillips Edison, owner of Holly Springs Plaza. The two discussed updates to the shopping center and their efforts and plans to secure another business or businesses to replace the existing Wal-Mart store. The Wal-Mart is scheduled to close once the Super Wal-Mart shopping center opens. Jenkins made presentations before the Highlands and Franklin Rotary Clubs earlier this month as well, and attended a Franklin Main Street Program meeting to promote collaboration efforts between the county and the Town of Franklin.

Jenkins recently met with Senator Richard Burr’s western field representative, John Mitchell, to talk about the what the Senator’s office could do to assist Macon County in terms of economic development initiatives. The EDC Director later held a phone conference with North Carolina’s Commerce Deputy Secretary, Dale Carroll, to set-up a visit to Macon County, and to schedule for Commerce Secretary, Keith Crisco, to be the keynote speaker at this year’s annual economic development banquet that is scheduled for Thursday, March. 22, in Franklin. Jenkins is scheduled to meet with Freddie Harrell, N.C. Senator Kay Hagan’s western field representative, on Jan. 19, in Franklin. The two will discuss what her office can offer Macon County in regards to economic development assistance.

Jenkins and county manager Jack Horton are also trying to fill the county’s business incubator, and they are trying to revamp the county’s EDC website in order to give existing businesses and entrepreneurs a sufficient amount of information about what Macon County has to offer in terms of economic development. Jenkins partnered with Tony Angel Media to make improvements to the EDC’s website.

Needless to say, this is just a short list of Mr. Jenkins’ itinerary for the month of January. He has also been working closely with Dale West on a number of programs to improve the employment numbers in Macon County. West presented a new program her office is implementing that has the potential to pay enormous dividends for unemployed Maconians.

Opportunity North Carolina is a new pilot program that Macon County’s Division of Employment Security is launching to help employers find competent workers, and for unemployed Maconians to find a viable job. The new state program allows employers to seek and train job candidates for six weeks, at no cost to the employer. The Division of Employment Security Office will continue to pay benefits to the job seeker while he/she is training with the employer, and they chip in a $100 weekly stipend to compensate for travel and training costs.

Their must be a job opening within the business – employers can’t take advantage of free labor – and the job trainee must be on the unemployment roles and have at least six weeks of eligibility remaining on their unemployment benefits. If the employer or trainee decides that it is not going to work out, they can back out at any point. The primary goal is to give employers and employees a clear path to economic security, at no cost to either party. Participants interested in the program can contact Macon County’s Division of Employment Security office at 369-9534.

West stated that the program should enable employers to find good candidates to fill positions, without taking the risks of welcoming a new employee after a twenty minute job interview and a short resume analysis. The program, hopefully, will help job seekers get sufficient training and secure a good occupation, while also assist employers with their efforts of finding capable employees. The win-win program is funded completely by the state.

The Opportunity North Carolina program is modeled after the Georgia Works program, which has proven to be a huge success in the state of Georgia.


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