• 66°

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Robert Van Geons, the new executive director for the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, calls it his “31 meetings in 30 days initiative.”
On the job just 36 hours, Van Geons shared with EDC board members Wednesday his plan for meeting individually with them, local government representatives and other community leaders over the next month.
He already has contacted all the municipalities to set up meetings with mayors and managers and has touched base with a couple of county commissioners.
Van Geons passed out sheets to the EDC board members Wednesday asking them to indicate the best times for them to meet with him.
He also requested that the EDC board members each give him three other people to contact.
Everyone’s input will be important for forming “the direction we need to be taking,” Van Geons said.
He added that he wants to spend his first 30 days on the job listening, learning and planning.
Beyond his meeting with people, Van Geons looks to update the EDC’s plan of work for 2008, make expense projections for the rest of the year and develop a “balanced scorecard” that will help give the office a baseline of expectations, so he can give people realistic information when they ask, “What does the EDC do?”
Van Geons said it would be good for the EDC to reach a place where it can quantify its activities and say what value it’s giving the community.
He added that he wants the EDC to have an action plan, emphasizing the word “action.” He would like to get away from the concept of “strategic planning” and move to “strategic doing,” Van Geons said.
“I think it’s a plus all the way around,” EDC board member Phil Kirk said of Van Geons’ plans for the first month.
Van Geons also took a few minutes Wednesday to outline his approach, which he described as “open source economic development,” one that emphasizes collaboration and inclusiveness in reaching goals.
“My door is always open to anyone with any idea to move this county forward,” he said.
Van Geons said there should be no limit to the number of volunteers or the overall network of people who want to help the EDC’s mission. The EDC must create an open, positive attitude and when any criticism does surface, he said, the EDC must ask the critics how things should be done differently.
Project Manager Stuart Hair, who headed the EDC office during a search for a new director, reviewed some of the economic development activity in Rowan County Wednesday.
He said the activity “continues to trend up,” even with the recent holidays.
The county has 34 prospects the EDC considers “active.” Of those, 13 represent potential projects and 21 are only inquiries at this point.
There have been 10 new prospects since the EDC’s last report in November. Of those, three are projects and seven are inquiries.
One notable prospect has been labeled as “Project Southland,” which would be “a very large development in south Rowan,” Hair reported. It would be mixed uses with an emphasis on light industrial, retail and commercial, but the prospect is still working on a lot of the details, Hair and Van Geons said.
“Project Canton” refers to Collett & Associates’ plans for Wallace Commons at Klumac and Julian roads. So far the first phase of the retail center will include a Home Depot and Kohl’s. The EDC says the project will create more than 125 jobs and $20 million in capital investment.
Three utility-related projects, labeled as “Project Heat,” “Project Third Buck” and “Project Biomass” are still considered active and could potentially lead to several hundred million dollars in investment, according to the EDC’s report.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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