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Orange County Economic Development Corp sees a bright future

By Dawn Burleigh

After seeing a pause in activity during 2020, Orange County Economic Development Corporation (OC EDC) is seeing projects moving forward again.

“Industry projects paused and restarted as they learned what policies to adhere to,” OC EDC Director Jessica Hill said. “COVID protocols were changing a great deal last year.”

Now into 2021, Orange County has 26 projects in the pipeline, including four large residential projects.

One project plans 400 homes valued at approximately $200,000 each.

“There is a possibility of seven residential projects with approximately 1000-plus new homes,” Hill said.

With the proposed new homes, is the increase of employment in the area.

At press time, the area has what is referred to as two months inventory for homes.

“If no new homes are added to the market, everything on the market now would be sold in 60 days,” Hill said.

“Typically, it is six months is what we were told,” OC EDC Business Development Manager Megan Romero said.

While residential projects are not usually county EDC, the infrastructure needed for the subdivision can fall under county EDC.

In January, OC EDC announced a Small Business Recovery Grant Program, made possible by a donation from Dow. Qualifying Orange County businesses will be eligible to receive a $1,000 grant to assist with economic recovery efforts.

“We began issuing checks the first week of February for the grant,” Hill said.

With it, 45 businesses received $1,000 to help with the impact made by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

On August 27, Hurricane Laura made landfall causing significant property damage and economic loss. Six weeks later, Hurricane Delta impacted Orange County and further contributed to the economic disorder.

“We are very appreciative of Dow’s generous $45,000 contribution to the recovery and success of our local small businesses. This partnership will allow the EDC to inject funds directly back into our community and support Orange County businesses through a very difficult year,” Hill said.

Moving forward to a better 2021, Romero, in addition to assisting Hill, is working on a business retention program.

“It will help with information such as who to contact, retaining employees, and existing clients,” Romero said. “We want to support existing businesses and want to be a resource to them.”

OC EDC is also working on new videos to help promote the area and attract new businesses.

One project in the pipeline is an announcement from Optimus Steel if or when it will expand in Orange County. It will be a $40 million investment.

“On a positive trend, while 2020 flatten off, 2021 is showing an upward trend,” Hill said. “Not many places can say a ChicfilA or a Starbucks opened during COVID. I cannot take credit for those., that was the city of Orange.”

Hill added OC EDC is talking with other franchises and said to look for more changes as investors become more comfortable with the market.

“By the end of the second quarter, we should see more changes,” Hill said.

While COVID brought many changes and uncertainty, it also had an unexpected side effect.

“So many people invested in their passions during 2020,” Hill said. “What they use to do as a hobby, they took a plunge and turned it into a business. Others picked up new skills and now have a new passion.”

From baking cookies, crocheting, or making candied apples, throughout the county there are many more small businesses opening up making 2021 an even brighter, more optimistic and better year.