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Monroe-Union County Economic Development ready for action

Union County’s new countywide economic development organization is showcasing an ambitious plan to create 600 jobs, $120 million in capital investment and 500 acres ready for development in the next two years.

Chris Platé is leading the Monroe-Union County Economic Development group, which is a joint undertaking between the city and county. He said this was the first time in nearly two decades that there has been such a countywide economic development effort.

Monroe had successfully run its own economic development department since 1996.

Last year, county commissioners were dissatisfied with the group that was handling its economic development, Union County Partnership for Progress. So commissioners dumped that group and decided to join forces with Monroe’s existing economic development program.

Platé detailed the new group’s plan of work for the commissioners recently, and the board unanimously approved it.

Commissioners asked Platé if he thought he would be able to achieve the goals. Platé said they were doable, and after two years, plans could become even more ambitious.

The planning document will guide the group’s efforts to create more job opportunities, generate additional industrial and commercial capital investment, and better define Union County for its target audiences.

Platé cited four areas where the group is going to focus: precision manufacturing, agribusiness, logistics and commercial.

With precision manufacturing, Platé hopes to build on Monroe’s strong aerospace community as well as in automotive and biomedical products. Electronics, defense-related industries, plastics and textiles are among the other industries to be targeted.

He believes that the county has a strong base for agribusiness but needs to do a better job of leveraging its assets to recruit businesses.

“There’s a vast opportunity here,” Platé said.

For instance, he noted that the county has more horses than anywhere else in the state. So equine support industries would be a natural area of focus. Other ventures to look at include timber processing and poultry farming.

Logistics involves moving physical goods, as well as having data and call centers. To bolster the county’s attractiveness for logistics work, the development group will continue to support reviving the Monroe Connector-Bypass, which remains in legal limbo.

Commercial work could include sports and entertainment centers in addition to office and retail sites, health care facilities and even film post-production, Platé said. Local students are now learning about film work, and such skills could come in handy given the number of productions that are filming in the Charlotte region.

The office also will brand different parts of the county: “Grow Union” highlights agricultural areas in the eastern corridor; “Monroe Aero” is a nod to the industrialized center; and “Gateway Union” refers to the western portion along the Mecklenburg County border near Interstate 485.

“At the end of the day, the plan, as well as our organization, are ultimately judged by two things: jobs and investments,” Platé said. “We’re very proud of the product we are presenting.”

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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