Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read June 2021 — The town of Apex knows it has that “wow factor” as more people and businesses continue to move there. Jacques Gilbert, the mayor of Apex, is spearheading the effort to make the town even more attractive for small and large businesses with economic development initiatives that encourage entrepreneurship, as well as finding industries and economic sectors that best fit the town.
What was the town of Apex’s contribution to the successful management of the pandemic over the past year?
I became mayor in December 2019 and within the first months, we faced the global pandemic as well as civil unrest across the country that, in the end, also impacted Apex. I would say our staff and leadership embraced these challenges as an opportunity to show people who we are as a community. I often say that there is nothing we can’t accomplish when we are together, and I truly believe that. It starts with the leadership to create a vision and the direction forward. We stuck to that path of just moving forward as a community.
How are newcomers to the Triangle area affecting the profile of Apex’s residents?
I would say we’re seeing more younger families moving in and taking advantage of what we have to offer, such as the environment that we provide, the community feel. We have a small-town character and I think people are drawn to that. People want to move here and take advantage of it.
What is Apex doing to attract new businesses?
We didn’t put a stop to business here. We were able to work through the pandemic and keep things going, demonstrating that Apex is still a place where people not only want to come to live but to locate their business, from small businesses to large businesses. We have a powerful economic development team, and they were able to identify the best opportunities for Apex and keep those conversations going with people who desired to be here and grow their business.
Seven years ago, the town invested in hiring an economic development director to look after things like building and site development, headquarter relocations and recruiting and retention of larger businesses, including those in research and development and life sciences, and then also working with smaller mom-and-pop businesses and startups.
During the pandemic, nothing stopped. All our town services became more streamlined. We put a $1 million loan program in place to help small businesses until they could get federal funds. Over the past several years, there have also been investments in infrastructure focused on attracting more businesses and industry to Apex.
How is the town diversifying its economy?
We’re about 80% residential and 20% nonresidential, and within nonresidential you can have everything from either restaurants and retail to industry and professional services. We recognize that diversification is key to our economy. We have done studies to see what kinds of industries and businesses would thrive in our community. We know that those are things like life sciences, IT, advanced manufacturing, research and development, office headquarters, data centers, and clean tech industries. We know those are good for this area because of our tier 1 research universities. To attract those types of companies we do have targeted marketing messages and we try to be very strategic about that to attract the industries that fit in our community.
With an influx of new residents coming into Apex, how are you ensuring there is affordable housing for lower-income demographics?
We’re very serious about that. We want to help to engage the community. In 2020, we started putting an affordable housing plan together. We identified the steering committee, and we adopted the plan. We believe that we can be creative and continue to find solutions for affordable housing as we move forward.
What is your outlook for Apex for the next 12 to 18 months?
I think the next 12 to 18 months are going to be exciting for the town of Apex because we’ve been growing and improving for many years. You’ll see more business and industry relocation because we have a product in place now that we didn’t have five or six years ago. We can now recruit these larger employers and that will continue to happen. We are in our fourth year of an entrepreneurship and small-business development training program in which we partner with Wake Tech Community College for a 10-week program on how to start a business or make a business better. It’s like a mini-MBA for these owners or potential business owners. I think you’re going to see more of that as well.
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