New economic development coordinator learns the ropes

Trevor Dalton, Macon County’s first paid economic development coordinator, is back on his home turf.

Dalton, 24, grew up in Macon County, and majored in business administration at Appalachian State. He worked in the Wilmington, N.C., area in the insurance industry and at a software firm for the past two years. He got his feet wet in the computer industry during high school working in software support for Drake and later for TekTone, a Drake subsidiary that makes intercom and call systems.

Drake, a tax software company that employs more than 325 people, is the largest single driver of Macon’s economy. Dalton’s knowledge of the field likely helped land the job.

In addition, Dalton’s father owns Dalton Construction, further scoring points since the construction industry is another major player in Macon’s economy.

Economic development consultant James McCoy, who is the chief visionary behind the county’s new economic development plan, is grooming Dalton for the job. Given McCoy’s expertise, the economic development board merely needed a coordinator who could implement the strategy McCoy was creating.

“The first day I walked in I had a 90-day plan,” Dalton said. “It said this is what you will do the first month this is what you will do the second month and this is what you will do the third month. I know exactly what I am doing tomorrow.”

Dalton doesn’t harbor vestiges of the old economic development paradigm. His counterparts in years gone by would spend their days courting big manufacturing industries to set up shop in their county, luring them with the promise of free land and tax incentives if they would roll in and provide jobs. But Dalton has internalized the new model that took his older counterparts much longer to come to terms with.

There are two major shifts in focus. One is nurturing small companies just as you would big ones.

“Manufacturing is gone. To create the jobs you have to have the small five, 10, and 15 person companies,” Dalton said.

The other is paying attention to the jobs you already have, he said.

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