Economic Development Transformation

The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they entrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests.

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 71, March 18, 1788

These comments pertain to recent developments changing the organization of the Lee County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC) and the trailing controversy that has found its place in the local fishwrap, in Tuesday night’s Sanford City Council Meeting, and on local conservative blogs.  

First, I should like to commend the four county commissioners who boldly voted to re-constitute organized county activity related to taxpayer-subsidized economic development under direct county control, effective December 31, 2011.   It was high time that taxpayers could enforce accountability for the activities of the LCEDC.  Now they shall have precisely that outcome.

I have heard the speculation that the action of the county commissioners was either illegal or ill-advised by the “institute of government,” as exclaimed publicly by Councilman Poly Cohen among others.   To put it politely, Mr. Cohen needs to do his homework.  The “School of Government” to which Mr. Cohen probably was referring, has prescribed three general forms of acceptable organization for an EDC, and Lee County commissioners have called for the transition from one of those forms to another one (from an independent EDC to a direct office of county government).   Both Ty Mulligan (SOG Attorney and expert on economic development topics) and David M. Lawrence (former SOG attorney and acclaimed expert on NC economic development law) have provided ample support for what Lee County commissioners have just accomplished. 

It should be noted that one or more county commissioners likely have read Mr. Lawrence’s book, “Economic Development Law for North Carolina Local Governments,” UNC Institute of Government (c) 2000.  Their proceedings on Monday night seem to have precisely followed the guidelines in Chapter 4 of Mr. Lawrence’s primer on how to organize for economic development activites. 

For those who actually witnessed the live debate on the future of the EDC, or who have subsequently watched it transpire on video, there was just cause presented for the transformation of the county’s share of the EDC activities to direct control of the county manager, with oversight by commissioners.  Clearly, the will of the commissioners board majority was not being served by the current EDC director and his ‘handlers’ in the EDC board of directors.  It was time for a change, and the start of a fiscal year is typically the best time to execute such a change.

Contrary to post-meeting commentary by people not in attendance, the commissioners did not seek to transfer the full EDC or its Executive Director to a direct reporting relationship under the county manager.  Only that portion of county funding and those activities funded by the county are being moved, and it is also being re-titled as the county’s economic growth office so as not to confuse it with the EDC (which may or may not survive as an independent authority).    The commissioners also agreed to commit six months to the study of how best to re-organize and transform the county’s activities, and to perform that planning in a collaborative manner with the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Sanford and the Town of Broadway.   The transition will not be a spurious move.

Several prominent citizens, including Mayor Olive and Sanford City Councilmen made comments denouncing the county’s move to re-organize and re-prioritize the county’s economic growth business.  I would opine that their protestations are just so much jibberish, containing no substantive observations or recommendations.  Instead of grandstanding, the city would do well to seek direct conversations with their commissioners and attempt to reconcile their concerns through direct discourse. 

I echo the sentiment expressed in Mr. Madison’s earlier post on this subject, observing that this change in the county’s economic development and growth organization and policies will be a positive development.  In this era of fiscal conservatism, it is refreshing to see commissioners actually following through on their campaign promises to expand their involvement in economic and job growth, to be more responsible with county tax revenues, and to enforce accountability for the use of those tax dollars.  Good show!

About Alexander Hamilton

First Secretary of the Treasury, Founding Father, and a leading federalist. I wrote most of the federalist papers, collaborating with John Jay and James Madison. Some in the Republican Party consider me the best ever Secretary of the Treasury. I was an original proponent for a strong central bank to help protect the financial security of our nation.
This entry was posted in City of Sanford, Economic Development, Jobs & Workforce Development, Lee County Politics, Town of Broadway. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Economic Development Transformation

  1. Randall Lee Yow says:

    Mr Hamilton,

    I think the main complaint with the Sanford City Council was the fact that no one knew this was coming, or am I wrong on that? Did anyone inform our madam Mayor or anyone on the City Council that the Lee County was pulling out of the EDC to form the EGO (I do like the acronym though)? If I remember correctly there was quite a bit of negotiation before the EDC was formed. If one party suddenly takes it’s share of the funding (even if it is 66%) and withdraws it without first informing it’s partners those said partners could feel left out in the cold. Of course you said, that the City Council should stop it’s grandstanding and seek to reconcile their concerns with direct discourse. Perhaps the County Commission should have used some of that direct discourse to inform someone that this move was coming. During the budget debate it appeared to a decent percentage of folks that certain Commissioners were picking a fight with the BOE and Dr Moss, and now it appears that certain Commissioners (who shall remain nameless) are itching to have a fight with the Sanford City Council and Mayor Olive. I do want to know what happens if Sanford forms it’s own Economic Thingamajig (industry term) that is answerable only to the SCC, and the BOC forms EGO which is answerable only to it. Wouldn’t we have two government offices preforming the same tasks and duplicating efforts (Not to mention two directors and two staffs), or are we presuming that the SCC and the Mayor will just fall in with what ever the BOC wants?

    -Randall Lee Yow

    • Mr. Hamilton can respond for himself, but I’d like to point out the Sanford City Council and the Mayor have a full six months in which to sort out how to adjust their EDC commitment and activities. In my mind, they have had plenty of notice.

      Truth be known, the acrimony isn’t so much about the summer surprise that was sprung by the BOC, but rather about the break-up of the good old boys club (GOBC) controlled EDC. Please note the GOBC has for decades controlled and manipulated this county– everything from the BOE and school system, to the jetport, to the BOC and the EDC. Just look at the composition of our many boards and commissions to get a sense of who’s calling the shots across Lee County. Fortunately, the GOBC death-grip on Lee County is ending. Voters have begun the process of eradicating GOBC-endorsed and supported figures from positions of authority. Voters intelligently began their overhaul with the BOC in 2010, and this fall will continue the process with the Sanford City Council, then turn again to the BOE and BOC come 2012. About 18 months from now the county should be well along in its transformation to fiscally conservative representation.


      • Randall Lee Yow says:

        Mr Madison,

        Can I get a list of all the supposed Good Old Boys from you? Or is that secret information?

        -Randall Lee Yow

    • Goose says:

      Yow I don’t think the City would have to form their own Thingamajig, the EDC might survive if you all gave it a transfusion of money and cut out the outsider members of the board but I thought I read somewhere that they had already voted to cut funding to it? You seem to be shocked by the idea that there could be more than one economic office in a county but I come from a county where there were seven of them at last count. There towns have more people than all of Lee Co and the thingamajigs compete with each other to get new revenue to reduce their tax loads. Lately the trend is to combine forces especially in areas that weren’t winning the battle… But just sticking to Lee Co., duplicates are not unknown, there are two law enforcement groups right? How many different fire districts? Heck up until 1973 when they merged the City and County had two separate school systems. The LEOs and the firemen can play nice together when they need to. I would expect EGO and a CSEDC could do the same to land a real big deep pocket corporation if the deal was right for them both. Honk?

      • Randall Lee Yow says:


        Double the bureaucracy does not seem to be a very conservative view point. After all the Lee County Republicans have brought up the idea in the past to merge the law enforcement agencies together to save money and limit government. Be careful you might be labeled a big money liberal and that would make you a Good Old Goose. I of course would never say that to you. Honk!

        -Randall Lee Yow

      • Goose says:

        Double the citizen input is a positive for me and competition is also one. I like small government, not larger than they need to be. I mentioned that consultation was a trend I did NOT say that I favored it. I would have hoped by now you would have realized that I am a rare bird, not an Eagle like PH, James or Thomas, I tend to think of Liberals as Seagulls numerous loud and not too bright as a flock but tricky individuals. Squawk? I don’t know you but it seems that you are a good old boy wannabe. Squawk?

  2. Patrick Henry says:

    Ahhh Mr. Yow, I can see why you think the BOC picked the fight.

    No, the BOE picked the fight with the taxpayers who wanted simply to see that our tax dollars were being spent wisely. That’s it. We didn’t call for sports to be axed. We didn’t call for teacher assistants to be canned. But we also didn’t call for all of our administrators to benefit from closed door sessions that rolled up supplements (which I thought were based on performance) into pay and for Mr. Moss’ contract to be extended for job security. Some of these back door, and yes, they were back door deals, simply were not prudent. They rewarded the administrators. Not a single one was included in the RIF. Not one. Is that fair?

    Didn’t see it coming? Let’s talk about not seeing something coming. We the people, could never have imagined the public baiting the BOE manuevered. The BOE could have demanded that the BOC and themselves hold joint meetings and show uniformity. Nope. The BOE, under the leadership of Bill Tatum, not Mr. Williams, and with Mr. Moss’ blessings, felt that if they could get the public’s ire towards the BOC the blank checks would follow. They were not prepared for the people to revolt. This county has never seen this before. Not this time.

    If Mr. Moss is worth his weight in gold, his contract would have been extended anyway. Why the rush? That and many, many other questions are not being answered by this board. They would rather get vocal and call us names – Bill Tatum’s “right wing fanatics”, Shawn Williams “witchhunt” – and go silent than answer direct questions.

    We didn’t elect the 3 conservatives, DOC is not a conservative, to just follow the others. We elected them to use common sense and not emotions to put this county’s finances back in order. The BOE banked on emotions.

    Win or lose we wanted them to stand up for the taxpayers. The taxpayers didn’t lose in the final tally of the school budget. The shool board didn’t come out so bad either. Our own Sanford Herald just doesn’t report all the facts when it comes to that school board. Somebody call Billy and ask him to be like Paul Harvey and give us “the rest of the story”.

    Mr. Yow, we were on a path to insolvency. NC’s finances are not in tip top shape. You can’t keep spending without cutting somewhere. The time to take action is before you are 95% there. The time to take action is now.

    Now as for the EDC. I’m getting ready to post about that as well. Our dear Governor (notice I didn’t call her the other name out of respect for you) has done something that should be overturned. Because you and me will paying for this one for sure.

    As for Ms. Olive – sorry chief. The BOC is within their rights to can the money for the EDC. They simply were not serving the community well. You can’t recruit jobs here that could kill ones that exist. And on top of that, give an incentive to the company moving in and shunning the one that’s here! You just can’t! And you have to hold all parties involved with negotiations responsible. The EDC has gotten away with this far too long.

    Why doesn’t Ms. Olive take your suggestion, Mr. Yow, about the sign and not spend $100,000 on it and take Mr. Taylor’s suggestion and fix the battery issue at a much lower cost? Better yet, force the golf course to become private and stop subsidizing it on the taxpayer backs!

    Then she could spend that money and give it to Bob. He can then sit in her meetings and tell her how grand it would be to bring in competition that more than likely will kill jobs locally. Bob has a tendency to forget to talk about “the job killing” part. And I can tell you from experience, he despises to talk about accountability. You can’t find him when you want him.

    This is the lunacy we’ve witnessed.


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