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|| Sonopress expansion highlights wisdom of concentrating jobs recruitment on existing firms
|| Asheville Citizen-Times
|| The good news from Sonopress is yet another illustration that the best way to expand the job base is to help businesses already here rather than seeking new firms.
Sonopress, a Weaverville-based manufacturer of compact discs and digital video discs, announced a $36 million expansion that includes 17 new CD production lines, nine new DVD machines and 50 new employees.
When expansion is completed, Sonopress will increase its production of music and software CDs by 37 percent and its capacity for movie and video-game DVDs by 82 percent.
Sonopress, a subsidiary of the German firm Bertelsmann, is already the world's largest optical replicator for CDs under one roof. With the expansion, it will be able to turn out 1.2 million CDs and 500,000 DVDs each day.
All those numbers may be impressive, but for the 750 people who already work there and the 50 who soon will have jobs, Sonopress means a good paycheck.
The new jobs, which will be filled through the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, start at $12 to $13 an hour.
Amanda Coffey of Mars Hill used to be a day-care worker, but she makes more at Sonopress and enjoys a benefits package that includes maternity leave, an important consideration for someone due to have her first child in six weeks. On top of that, she likes the work. "It's a fun job," she said. "You feel like you accomplished a lot in a day here."
The day before Sonopress' announcement, a business retention executive told the North Carolina Economic Development Association, at its annual meeting in Asheville, the importance of existing companies in producing new jobs for a community. "Up to 80 percent of job growth comes from companies you already have," said Del Birch, vice president of Business Retention Technologies. "It doesn't come from attraction and recruitment."
On top of that, he said, "It is a lot cheaper and far easier as well to deal with the guys and gals down the road than it is to go around the world" hunting employers.
Nevertheless, according to Birch and Laith Wardi, president of Business Retention Technologies, much effort is focused on bringing in jobs from the outside. "We have about 15,000 economic development organizations chasing about 200 major expansions" each year, Wardi said. "You're playing a game where there are more losers than winners."
Fortunately, Buncombe County seems aware of this. The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has a program to work with existing businesses, and the county, which has committed $250,000 over three years to Sonopress, understands the advantages of working with people already here.
"A few years ago we were worried that Sonopress might leave," said County Commissioner David Young.
"Now they're expanding with good, steady jobs that pay well. ... We offer incentives for companies to move here.
"We want to make those incentives (available) to the companies that are already here."
That's a sound strategy. Just ask Amanda Coffey.
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