After all, new corporate citizens bring with them new jobs.
As America continues her climb from the depths of The Great Recession, whose origin dates back all the way to late 2007, our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown is leading the way. New jobs are helping. Some believe our community was not hit as hard by the economic calamity that has befallen most of our nation, and much of the planet.
The point is well taken, yet still arguable.
Like most towns, we have lost jobs. Unemployment rolls went up. Homeless numbers rose. Foreclosures hit an all-time high. The number of “For Sale” signs popping up on front lawns was unparalleled. And morale slumped.
Yet, our community moved ahead. Much of the thrust came compliments of names like Volkswagen and Wacker. They are our newbies. Their arrival was a breath of fresh air. Their presence is being felt in many ways — in jobs, in local spending and in hope for better times ahead.
But our hometown’s greatest momentum has been anchored in significant achievements, and physical growth, by an array of familiar names like Whirlpool, M&M Mars NA, Olin Chlor-Alkali and Lonza, among several others.
The latest is Renfro Corporation whose seven-year presence in Cleveland since acquiring the former Charleston Hosiery has helped to maintain a strong local representation by the hosiery industry. As announced last week, customer demand for Renfro products is prompting the company to invest $17.5 million in equipment and construction to renovate, and to expand, its Michigan Avenue Road plant.
One can also look beyond the private industry sector and into other arenas like education where continued growth by Lee University and Cleveland State Community College is zeroing in on needs of the future.
Our point is this. While Cleveland and Bradley County economic development leaders will continue to recruit new businesses into our ranks — as is practical, depending upon available resources and negotiated agreements — it is existing industry that has brought our community into the forefront of economic viability, and to some degree recovery.
Local leaders said as much recently when they welcomed the good news by old friend Renfro whose Charleston Hosiery roots grant them “old friend” status.
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis offered, “Thanks to companies such as Renfro, Bradley County has seen 875 new full-time jobs created since Sept. 1, 2010. It is encouraging to know that Renfro and several other industries here agree that expanding in Bradley County is a good investment.”
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland also weighed in, “Our community’s first priority is to create an environment that allows the existing industry base to flourish and the fact that a member of the hosiery industry has chosen to reinvest here is a great testament to the quality of the workforce and the business environment we have all worked diligently to establish and maintain.”
Lisa Pickel, director of Existing Industry for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce whose job is focused on current corporate citizens, added, “[Renfro’s expansion] once again shows the world this region provides a world-class workforce that is up to any challenge and worthy of anyone’s consideration.”
Existing industry is part of the same village that is required to raise a child.
But in this case, these companies are raising our entire Cleveland and Bradley County community, some 100,000 steps at a time.
We thank all for their years of commitment.
We salute Renfro as being a vital force among them.