Kings Mountain has developed a unique approach to economic development — one that not only makes good sense, but has seen good results. It’s based on identifying your community’s strengths and capitalizing on them to provide real value to your existing customers and the businesses you attract.
According to Nick Hendricks, Jr., Kings Mountain’s Energy Services Director, it all starts with a solid foundation.
“You have to take a look at your infrastructure, your surroundings, your people,” he says. “You ask yourself, what can I do that will be of value to residential, commercial or industrial customers? For example, here in Kings Mountain, it doesn’t hurt to have a main transmission line and a main transcontinental pipeline running through town!”
Listening and learning are absolutely essential. As Nick explains, “You go out in the world and you make new contacts — and you hear success stories and you hear failures. You take those success stories and you apply them to your area, and some of them will be a good fit. Reaching out to our contacts — experienced, knowledgeable people, we put together a plan of action.”
The listening doesn’t stop there. Hendricks says, “We find out what customers want. We did it with our Smart Meter project and we did it with our new fiber project. Once we explained the concept and saw the interest, we’d do a pilot program and see how it works, then step in deep. The city of Kings Mountain has a number of data centers: AT&T, Disney, Apple. We put in the fiber optic infrastructure throughout town when we put in the cable to serve those centers. And we saw that smaller companies could take advantage of that backstand in smaller amounts. Whether it’s overseas or just across town, we can link their facilities. We offer dark fiber, which they can light.” It’s a process that Nick sees as both productive and financially responsible. “We have to make sure as we spend funds that we’re creating a revenue return. We don’t want to go out on a limb not knowing what we’re going to get.”
This outside-the-box take on economic development, along with a sharp focus on the community’s future and ongoing projects like the smart meter program, have certainly paid off for Kings Mountain. As Nick explains,
“We’ve been blessed to see our utilities as a whole continue to increase, even in the tough economy.”
The recent announcement of the NTE power plant, now under construction, is further proof of this approach. As Nick says, “With NTE, we heard what they were looking to do and we put a team together to help locate a site. NTE will become our largest water customer, one of our top five electric customers, and one of the largest taxpayers. They will also be a big user of our fiber, linking their different facilities.”
Wrapping up, Nick again stressed listening and establishing relationships. “Once you hear what people are looking for, you begin to work toward those things. You talk to people who’ve been in these situations, and you learn from them — experienced, knowledgeable people like your city staff, your planning team, and folks like Brenda Daniels and the ElectriCities staff. You pull together as a team, working together toward a common goal. It can lead to real out-of-the-box thinking.” Visit www.cityofkm.com.