New EDC director gets to work
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Marc Farmer, the new director of the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation, has been at the helm of the EDC for about four weeks and already has a vision for what can come to Copperas Cove.
Farmer said as far as he and his family are concerned, they feel at home here in Copperas Cove. Farmer and his wife are Lubbock-area natives. Aside from living in Jacksonville, they’ve only lived in the Lubbock area.
He said he entered the field of economic development after seeing the example of his parents, with his father being a builder in the Lubbock area and his mother a real estate broker.
“I’ve seen what they were able to build over the years, and I’d like to do the same, on a larger scale, for Copperas Cove.”
Prior to Farmer’s two years in Jacksonville at the head of the EDC in that city, he spent eight years as the Director of Business Recruitment for the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance. Sandwiched between his time at the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance and time at the Jacksonville EDC, Farmer spent two years as the Director of Business Development for FastFacility, LLC, in Lubbock.
He referred to Lubbock’s 586-acre business park and believes Copperas Cove EDC’s business and technology park, The Narrows, will be able to follow suit in drawing a distribution center for a large company to the city.
“What I see (for Copperas Cove) is big box distribution centers. You’re too close to Waco and Austin, and Houston and Dallas aren’t even too far. I really think you can reach a lot in a day’s drive. You can deliver and drop off, then come back,” Farmer said. The new truck driving school to be built at The Narrows will be another plus for distribution centers looking to set up shop in Copperas Cove.
Farmer will call on his experience in recruiting businesses to cities like Lubbock. In 2008, O’Reilly Auto Parts opened a distribution center in that city, bringing 400 jobs via the center and its retail store. Jobs at distribution centers like O’Reilly are “primary” jobs—paying wages that exceed those of retail, entry-level jobs. He gave an example of some jobs at the O’Reilly distribution center starting around $16 per hour.
One thing Farmer also wants to set about doing right away is working on updating EDC’s strategic plan.
“I think when you want to go after something, the first thing you have to do is look around and see what you’re good at. What is your infrastructure? What is your skilled labor force? Even skill attainment level—can you train them?” Farmer said. The most recent strategic plan for the EDC is dated March 2011.
As far as offering financial incentives to potential buyers at The Narrows, Farmer said it’s one thing to offer a company a financial bonus to stay, but one thing he’d rather develop is a relationship with a company to where they’re committed to Copperas Cove and the community.
“First and foremost, a site selector is going to look at your workforce. What’s the transit look like? Highway, rail, things of that nature. “Really, incentives are third or fourth place. Money doesn’t make a bad deal, a good deal,” Farmer said. “That’s one thing I’ve really tried in Lubbock and Jacksonville. We’re not going to pay you to come here. We want you to come here because you want to be here. Then, the incentives fall into place. It doesn’t matter how much money I give you, if you’re not happy here if you just want the money, once the clawback provisions are gone, you’re done. And that’s generally what happens. You’ve got to make sure they want to be here.”
The process of making cities like Copperas Cove rise above other prospects may seem a bit daunting. Farmers estimated there were about 1,500 sizeable projects launched in the United States at one point, and there are 580 EDCs in the state of Texas alone, not counting the rest of the country.
“It’s not easy, but just getting out to meet and greet, common ground, shaking hands, following up. Those are the things you have to do…you’re fooling yourself if you’re going to sit there and the phone is going to ring.”
However, Farmer used the adage that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” as far as how long it will take to pique the interest in companies to build and open something like a distribution site in Copperas Cove. It’s about relationships and knocking on doors, and after Farmer’s work in Lubbock as well as Jacksonville, he plans to make connections on behalf of Copperas Cove.
The EDC holds a monthly meeting on the fourth Wednesday of every month at noon, at the EDC building located at 210 S. 1st St. Meetings are open to the public.