Officials from the Cherokee Office of Economic Development presented the results of its existing industry survey, a survey that takes the pulse of the health of local companies.
The survey targets manufacturing, distribution and warehouse companies with 20 or more employees and asks them a range of questions concerning their company’s future plans, its take on national issues that would affect their operations, its feelings about its current workforce and asks them to rate services provided by the community.
Misti Martin, president of the economic development office, said 21 companies participated. There are 44 manufacturing, distribution and warehouse companies in the county.
Martin presented the results to both the statutory Development Authority of Cherokee County and the constitutional Cherokee County Development Authority during both bodies’ Monday meeting.
This year’s survey had a 48 percent participation rate, which was higher than the 22 percent surveyed in 2009 and 45 percent surveyed in 2007.
The interviews took place between April and July, and some companies were allowed to complete the survey on an Apple iPad.
Nearly 86 percent of the companies reported their primary products or services were either growing or maturing in its life cycle.
To help satisfy a changing market, 33 percent of business owners reported they were altering their key products and 42 percent reported that mergers, acquisition and diversification were on the rise in their industries.
“We’ve been very happy with the results,” Martin said, adding she’s seeing a “new confidence” in the county’s industries.
On the flipside, a majority of companies expressed negative responses when asked about legislation that would hinder their operations. Fifty-two percent expressed negative opinions this year, compared to only 33 percent in 2009.
Slightly more companies reported increasing company sales, with 67 percent reporting a jump. That’s an increase from 62 percent in 2008, but that lags behind the 75 percent in 2007.
Also, 24 percent of businesses reported stability in sales, compared to 13 percent in 2009 and 20 percent in 2007. The percentage of companies reporting a decrease in sales tumbled to 10 percent this year, compared to 25 percent in 2009 and five percent in 2007.
More companies also expressed plans to roll out new products, with 76 percent saying they had plans to do so in the next two to three years. That’s up from 62 percent in 2009, but still trails the 85 percent mark in 2007.
Fifty-seven percent of the industries surveyed said they had plans to expand within the next three years. Martin pointed out that if those expansions were to come into fruition, that would mean 525,000 square feet in additional space, $40.8 million in investments and 189 additional jobs for Cherokee County.
Companies were also asked to rank services provided to them by the community. Martin said the companies overall ranked county and city services, police and fire protection and local schools and satisfactory.
She added there were some complaints the Cherokee Area Transportation System, or CATS, was limited in its service.
Some also said they wanted to see expanded access to sewer lines, more networking opportunities and fixes to power outages some companies have to deal with.
“Overall, we felt like it was very, very positive,” she said.
Along with assessing the health of the county’s existing businesses, the results can be used to show other prospective industries how viable and successful other companies have been in the county.
Marshall Day, chairman of the Development Authority of Cherokee County, added he was also impressed with the numbers, adding there were a lot of positive outcomes.
“It bodes well for Cherokee County,” he said.