Macon County Business Development Center fostering economic growth
Since 2009, the Macon County Business Development Center (BDC) has been working to empower promising entrepreneurs with good ideas by offering space, tools, and opportunities needed to build successful businesses in the community.
The BDC was originally constructed as an incubator facility in the late ’80s. Although funded in part with Appalachian Regional Commission and Economic Development grants with the intent of fostering a business development center, the facility was seldom used for its intended purpose and over time has been used in various capacities – as a warehouse, community college space and storage for local manufacturers. The county wanted to revamp the space in 2009 and provide a service to local business hopefuls.
Currently at capacity, the BDC, which is overseen by Economic Development Director Tommy Jenkins, has a total of five occupants specializing in a variety of different businesses.
To be considered for the BDC, Jenkins explained that potential tenants are required to submit an application, including a business plan, to the Business Development Committee of the Macon County Economic Development Commission. “Upon review and approval, the EDC recommends admission to the BDC to the county, who leases the space to the tenant on a yearly basis.” said Jenkins. “Each tenant enters a three-year program with annual reviews and recommendations by the EDC for annual lease renewals. Criteria include a sound business plan demonstrating potential growth for our local economy.”
In addition to aiding businesses in the BDC, as the county's Economic Development Director, Jenkins is available to assist business owners throughout Macon County, including the towns of Highlands and Franklin. Jenkins works with the county's Economic Development Commission to be a resource for local businesses. “The EDC’s 'Guide for New Business' provides a step by step checklist to assist those desiring to open a business in Macon County,” said Jenkins. “Copies of the brochure are available at various locations including the town office and county courthouse. You can also download it online; http://www.maconedc.com/pdf/2013%20 Macon%20County%20Guide%20for%20N ew%20Business%20Update.pdf.”
The EDC is yet another resource to help local businesses, both prospective and existing business owners, to identify and connect with the resources available for business plan development, financing, regulatory requirements, licensing, marketing assistance and other start up needs.
Debra Green, co-owner of Luxury Therapeutics which is located in the BDC, says she takes advantage of the networking opportunities at the center.
“We utilize the networking opportunities of the members as well as the programs available through SCC and AdvantageWest,” said Green. “We also have access to internet services which we need to operate our website.”
Owned by Debra Green and Karen Kneeland, Luxury Therapeutics has been in business since November 2011 and formally launched the business with a programmed line and website in June 2012. “We have been in the economic development center since November 2011,” said Green. "We manufacture and sell hot/ cold therapy products to spas, online shopping sites and gift shops. We also operate a retail website with a shopping cart where we sell at retail.”
The company sells to several four- and five-star spas including: The Greenbrier Spa, The Spa Biltmore, Old Edwards Inn, James Royal Palm, South Beach Miami, and One Bal Harbour. The line has multiple fabric choices filled with natural ingredients like flax and dried lavender. Whether using a spa wrap, eye pillow, or shoulder wrap one can find "simple relief from life's stresses."
In September, Luxury Therapeutics gained national recognition when they were featured by Capital One's Spark Business in their Small Business Spotlight Series.
When Luxury Therapeutics first moved to the BDC, they had two employees. They have since been able to grow to two full-time employees and one part-time employee. “The EDC has enabled us to keep our startup costs and overhead low while starting our business,” said Green. “The board has been endlessly supportive and willing to help promote the business and make referrals and networking opportunities available. They also make available educational opportunities to enable us to grow our business through social media and business planning.”
Forex Currency Trade Advisors, LLC has been in business since 2007 and has been a part of the BDC for a little more than two years. Owned by Sean Donalds, and aided by managing members, JC Kirchman and Barry Taylor, Forex Currency Trade Advisors, LLC offers Foreign Exchange trading software and participation in a Global Forex Fund as an investment for those seeking alternatives to stocks.
Through the resources at the BDC, Forex has been able to grow from two employees to five employees. “We are utilizing the BDC office facilities and exploring other marketing and technical avenues to assist in our growth,” said Taylor. “The BDC has given us a physical presence in the Industrial Park and assisted with keeping our overhead low. The relationship has been good and we thank the Economic Development Center for the opportunity to grow within Macon County.”
From small beginnings in the kitchen of John and Linda Seaman in Greenville, S.C., in 2005, Harmony House Foods, Inc. relocated to Macon County's BDC last year. According to John Seaman, Harmony House Foods, Inc. chose to relocate to Macon County because of the positive business environment, low tax burden, available labor force, and the cooperative spirit of the Economic Development Commission. “Tommy Jenkins was extremely instrumental in helping us make the decision to relocate,” said John Seaman, president. “The cooperation of the County and the Economic Development Commission made the choice an easy one.”
Harmony House Foods packages premium freeze-dried and dehydrated products. In 2007 they developed the “Backpacker Kit” which won the Editors Choice Award from Backpacker Magazine. In 2008, they were nominated “Business People of the Year” by the SBA for the state of North Carolina. As the demand for premium products grew, Amazon.com invited Harmony House Foods to be one of their Preferred Vendors, and in 2012, they ranked in the top 25 percent of all Amazon sellers and achieved an A-plus rating with their customers.
Since moving to Macon County, Harmony House Foods has increased its workforce as the demand for their premium products increase. Their Backpacking Kit was recently featured on Groupon, which is a network site with more than 35 million registered users. Harmony House Foods is a member of Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina. For more information, or to see their complete product line, visit www.GoHHF.com.
According to Jenkins, both the EDC and BDC are unique resources that work as recruitment tools to encourage business growth in the local economy. “When tenants complete their stay, they should be in a position to be successful in the private sector; providing jobs, adding to the tax base and creating wealth in the community,” said Jenkins. “The BDC is one of the important components of economic development for Macon County. Small businesses are the main drivers of our economy and the BDC offers these businesses the opportunity to succeed.”