Work Underway On Leland’s First Professional Economic Development Strategy

By Johanna F. Still, posted Jan 27, 2023
Consultants are preparing an economic development strategy and incentive policy report for the town of Leland – the first professionally solicited report of its kind for the growing community. 

North Carolina-based Creative Economic Development Consulting LLC has been tasked with formulating the report. 

The town’s Economic Development Committee had previously crafted a three-year economic development strategic plan of its own in 2019, which it updated early last year, but the new report will be the first produced by a professional economic development consultant, according to Gary Vidmar, the town’s economic and community development director.

“Increased demand for housing has contributed to the significant population growth and residential development in Leland,” Vidmar said when asked what prompted the need for the new undertaking. 

Leland’s size has ballooned geographically through a series of voluntary annexations as its population grows. “The town has a pro-growth disposition and intends to continue to expand in both population and geographic area,” Leland shared in its request for proposals issued in June for the economic report. 

Between 2010 and 2021, the town’s population nearly doubled, from about 13,500 to nearly 26,000, according to U.S. Census estimates. It was founded in 1989.

“As a result of this rapid residential growth, the town is now experiencing a growing demand for commercial and retail businesses to provide quality, high-paying job opportunities for the town’s residents and to satisfy their everyday needs,” Vidmar said. 

The town saw a need for developing an economic strategic plan and incentive policy, Vidmar said, “which will be an important guiding document outlining goals and strategies to implement a shared vision for the community.” 

Town council in September authorized the report, which will cost up to $49,500.

Crystal Morphis, CEO of Creative Economic Development Consulting, told the economic development committee during a Jan. 12 meeting that her team began its work in October. As part of the research, the team conducted a community survey that garnered 800 responses, which Morphis said was “by far the largest response we’ve ever received in a community.” 

Survey responses generally centered around the desire for well-paying local jobs, quality of place and public investments in recreational and local amenities, Morphis said. 

Focus areas the town is seeking guidance on include the Leland Innovation Park, Gateway District, Highway 74/76 corridor and the Highway 17 corridor west of Lanvale Road, according to the RFP. 

At the recent committee meeting, Morphis offered an outline of four main goals the town should consider as part of its new economic development strategy: 
  • Attract and retain startup businesses that will provide local quality jobs;
  • Make strategic public investments in placemaking;
  • Market and promote Leland as a live-work-play community; and 
  • Strengthen the development department, programs and policies so the town can implement the new economic development strategic plan.
Vidmar said a draft of the strategic plan and incentive policy will be presented to council in March. The final presentations for council to consider adopting are expected to take place in April. 

“The goal of this process," Vidmar said, "is to promote business expansion and economic diversification that will lead to sustainable jobs, tax base growth and long-term economic stability."
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