Ashe County put on her best face Tuesday for a visit by the new state commerce secretary. It was a beautiful spring day for county government officials and business and community leaders to host visitors from the state and regional economic development entities.
Secretary of the NC Dept. of Commerce Keith Crisco, a Stanley County native, was appointed by Governor Perdue in January. He brings 38 years of experience in business and commerce to the job. Secretary Crisco served as president and chairman of Asheboro Elastics Corp., a company he founded in 1986 with partners. Asheboro Elastics now has offices in 7 countries and manufacturing facilities in the US and Central America with sales around the world.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in math and physics from Pfeiffer University and an MBA from Harvard University, served as a White House fellow in Washington DC, and as assistant to the US Secretary for Commerce during the Nixon Administration, among his political positions.
Crisco joined regional and local leaders for lunch at Jefferson Landing and then toured several of the county’s manufacturing facilities, including Gates Corp., GE Aviation, and AEV.
At lunch, the discussion centered on jobs and the economy, and Crisco said that even though unemployment is high, there are people looking at North Carolina for business opportunities and he hopes to spread that interest too all parts of the state. “We’re pressing the accelerator. We really are,” he said.
“And we’ll help you push that accelerator a little faster,” responded Pat Mitchell, county economic development director. Mitchell organized the visit by Secretary Crisco, which had been arranged by Rep. Cullie Tarleton, who wanted the secretary to see just what Ashe County has to offer.
Crisco talked to the local and regional leaders about the state of the economy and listened to their comments and requests. When asked his opinion on international interests, Crisco said, “We need to get our priorities in place,” he said. He couldn’t comment on what will happen with the federal stimulus money as far as incentives are concerned.
County Manager Dan McMillan got in a plug for the Ashe County Airport, still $3.5 million shy of the money needed to extend the runway 700 feet. The county is losing hangared aircraft to Wilkes, McMillan said, because of the runway.
After meetings and tours at Gates and GE, Crisco came to AEV and was thoroughly impressed with the plant and operations. Owner Mark Van Arnam said his company is bursting at the seams on its 10 acres and he would like to expand to bring in some new equipment.