Dissolution of the Lee County Economic Development Corporation

One of the most discussed items emanating from Monday night’s BOC meeting was the apparent move to transfer and transition the Lee County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC).  The three BOC conservatives– Shook, Parks, and Womack –joined with Commissioner Reives in voting to move the LCEDC under the managerial oversight of the County Manager no later than December 31, 2011.  For now its budget remains as approved and recommended by the County Manager, and the oversight will continue under its present 12-member Board of Directors.

There appear to be quite a few details left to be worked out by commissioners in how best to transition and direct the activities of this organization.  Those matters will be resolved in the coming six months.  What is presently confirmed (as presented in Commissioner Womack’s motion) is that the LCEDC will be re-titled as an Economic Growth Office; that it will move under the county manager before the end of the calendar year; and that it will be set up to be more responsive to the Board of Commissioners inquiries in the future.  Gone are the days where the EDC Director defers answering BOC questions or rendering routine reports until and unless the EDC Board so directs. 

For those in Lee County who were surprised with this sudden and unexpected change, let’s examine why it happened: (A) The EDC had repeatedly refused to fully respond to several of the BOC questions about employment data and tracking the results of recruitment efforts by its director; (B) 67% of the EDC funding came from Lee County, but the county was only permitted to appoint 4 out of 12 voting members (an imbalanced representation); (C) despite repeated protest by conservatives, the EDC leadership persisted in pursuing incentive offers to outside companies rather than seeking to help local small businesses; and (D) the EDC was not regularly and repeatedly sharing insider information about its prospects and projects with commissioners.   These things and more destined the EDC to be terminated by its chief funding authority.  It was only a matter of time.

Some will ask, what good will come of this change in management and structure?  Here are a few likely outcomes: (A) The EDC will lose its present director in December, and a new county position will be created to manage the county’s economic growth projects and policies; (B) County Commissioners will be receiving monthly reports and providing guidance on economic growth performance across the county; (C) a greater emphasis will be placed on business retention and expansion across all sectors in Lee County (rather than a singular focus on recruiting new industrial manufacturers); and (D) the BOC will begin showing interest in and greater responsibility for creating jobs and helping local businesses grow out of the present business recession.

Here are some other things to ponder as well:  (A) the county’s fund balance is aproaching a level that the county was unable to fund any special capital infrastructure projects to attract new  companies; (B) several of the companies receiving incentives in the past are now drawing down their employment levels or leaving Lee County altogether (raising questions about the sensibility of the EDC’s old incentives policy); and (C) all of the administrative functions of the EDC will be continued after the transition is complete– including management of the revolving loan funds, coordination with Dept of Commerce, RTRP and BRAC promotional efforts, and responding to inquiries from outside companies looking at Lee County.

In the end, this transition will be a good thing for Lee County. 

Publius

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About James Madison

I was the fourth president of these United States. My wife Dolley and I are greatly disturbed with the erosion of your liberties and the encroachment of the present federal, state, and local governments. I was an original member of the Democratic-Republican Party in this country and I would welcome a return to the conservative values that united Democrats and Republicans in my day. Let's start with putting God back in our lives and our government so He will richly bless our endeavors in Lee County. Let's force our elected officials be more transparent and accountable to the electorate in fiscal and social matters. I look forward to hearing your ideas about these matters and others that are on your hearts and minds. Thank You for participating!
This entry was posted in Budget, Capital Improvements, Economic Development, Jobs & Workforce Development, Lee County Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Dissolution of the Lee County Economic Development Corporation

  1. It’s about time! Now I hope the accountability we conservatives have been asking for happens. The EDC has been able to run amok and dodge true concerns.

    Bravo! all citizens will benefit from the reorganization of the EDC and the performance audit. Small businesses will finally have a voice!

  2. Randall Lee Yow says:

    Three Questions,

    1) So the EDC is over, but does Mr Huets still get paid until December?

    2) Will we have no organization to do what the EDC was doing until December? So if a business is interested in moving into the area over the next six months who do they contact?

    3) Where does this leave Sanford and Broadway? Do they not get any input into what comes next? Does Lee County not want or need their funding?

    (I no that is a lot more than three questions, but go with me hear.)

    -Randall Lee Yow

    • Randall Lee Yow says:

      That should be: I know that is a lot more than three questions, but go with me here.
      It’s really late and I’m barely awake, so sue me.
      -RLY

  3. Goose says:

    Please excuse any questions that appear to be stupid but I am going to ask them anyways. A) Was this action fully considered or just taken in the heat of the moment? I understand that the BOC was generally frustrated by the lack of response to their demands for more info from the LCEDC and the conservatives don’t think highly of the whole idea of incentives, but there appears to be no trigger event to bring the problem to a head at this time. I would think it would have been more prudent to set up a study committee to look into the likely results from this action.
    B) Was this ground work already completed and just never made it to the pages of the Herald?
    C) Seeing that the LCEDC is legally an independent not for profit corporation can the BOC “dissolve” it? They can refuse to fund and maybe refuse to appoint their 3 representatives to the board but it could live on the same as any other nonprofit that the BOC chooses not to fund, using grants from the state and federal s which it appears on the face of it that they have the connections to rather than the BOC.
    D) Can the county maintain the secrets that are often required during the early stages of contact between people that are hoping for some assistance and the source of that assistance, or was it the point of the action to bring these things out to the light of day via open meeting laws? I think the LCEDC was set up and structured the way it is in order to avoid having to do all their work in public, to limit political involvement and to provide cover during the early stages of the process.
    E) Is the county and the BOC ready and willing to take the heat for the employment and lack of growth problems that I foresee for the county for at least the next five years? Face facts the only real asset we have for growth is our location. If the schools produce some “brains” they will leave to be educated and the jobs available in Lee Co will not encourage them to return. If we deemphasize manufacturing even the best of the CCCC crowd will leave the area. Service jobs are not highly paid and we can’t advance if we are only providing services to each other. To me it appears that our best bet is to be a bedroom community where people earn big bucks elsewhere and bring them home to buy our services, but I always was a pessimist, I hope I am proven wrong.

    Shelia, did you ever wonder why small businesses stay small? Growing businesses should have a voice, small businesses not so much. Just MHO.

  4. Goose says:

    Mr. Madison as i read the list on the Lee Co website, People named Holt,Womack, Donnie Oldham, and Nestor (4 people not 3) serve on the board for Lee Co. Stone is non voting and Shook is listed as an alternate. it appears Mrs Shook was appointed the same day her term expired. Also I only count 11 voting members not 12. So is the website wrong or are you? honk?
    http://www.leecountync.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=yEsL3siHED4%3d&tabid=97

    • There are twelve voting members on the EDC Board. You are correct in that four of the voting members are from the county (my typo before). And, to be more precise, 66% of the funding comes from the county, rather than 67% (my rounding error). Shook is indeed an alternate on the current EDC Board. Stone is a non-voting member as well. I just checked, the LCEDC website is incorrect and incomplete in listing board members. Tommy Mann is now off the EDC. Donnie Oldham is the new Chairman. I believe the 12th voting member not listed on the county website is either Councilman Sam Gaskins or Chamber President Bob Joyce. Both attend meetings and participate so far as I know. Publius

      • Goose says:

        I love the Info tech of the local groups they never seem to be right even when they are up dated. The version I saw and posted the link to did have Donnie Oldham not Tommy Mann as Chairman, Joyce & Gaskings were not mentioned. head of cccc and moss seat comes with job as does head of committee of 100 and now chamber president. nothing like a even number to prevent deadlocks!.

  5. frankly, the EDC has done more damage than not. They make deals that even in this little girl’s eyes make no sense. I think Mr. Reives put it nicely to Mr. Hayes Monday evening when he asked Hayes to name one company that had been recruited here in the last two years?

    I mean they went after a foreign company that would be direct competition to one of our own! That potentially could have put 50 people on the unemployment line. You can’t think that is smart. there’s been incentive after incentive given out that makes no sense.

    Why did Parkdale need $30,000 to move furniture across town? good grief. I will tell you why. Hayes sat in Java Express and told me he would not be the one they blamed for 60 jobs lost. Hmmm. I am still trying to comprehend why they couldn’t rent or use their trucks and what does moving furniture have to do with 60 people being canned?

    Of course the incentives I am referring to were given before November elections. I believe Huets has been missing in action for questioning for a while.

    oh yes, let’s not forget the Jetport deal where the company promised jobs here only to run away! And which the Governor smiled so nicely when she told us how many jobs the owners were “creating” in Halifax County.

    Sheila

  6. Alexander Hamilton says:

    Nice post JM. And I must commend the County Commissioners for their bold and long overdue move to bring economic growth policy and procedures under direct control of the funding authority in local government. As I said in Federalist 21, “The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men.”

    Clearly, the oversight board for the Lee County EDC was out of touch with the will of the people. The people of Lee County exercised their constitutional rights to elect fiscal conservatives to the commissioners’ board this past November. Now, those elected officials have wrought change to the organization of the EDC. This is democracy in action, tempered by that same kind of fiscal conservatism we founding fathers held dear.

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