Councilmen defend Rowan Jobs Initiative former board member Mike Miller
By Mark Wineka
The Rowan Jobs Initiative and one of its former board members, Mike Miller, received ringing endorsements Tuesday from Salisbury City Council.
Their reception was a love fest compared to what RJI and Miller have seen recently from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
The commissioners have pulled all county funding ó $75,000 ó from RJI, whose main push since its establishment in 2004 has been the marketing of Rowan County, especially to site selection consultants and real estate brokers.
The decision to pull funding came after Chairman Arnold Chamberlain cited concerns about RJI’s contracting with Miller Davis Inc. for marketing activities while Miller was on RJI’s board.
Miller told City Council, which is another funding partner, that he stands by his past service to RJI.
He described how he made sure to avoid conflicts of interest as a board member, running things by an attorney and board officers and making sure he did not participate in votes on any marketing contracts.
Miller said he often donated his company’s time and that 80 percent of the $117,000 Miller Davis received from RJI since 2004 was passed through to pay for advertisements in magazines and other publications.
Miller said accusations that questioned his character and moral standards “are serious to me.” He added he wanted to clarify things with the city because it was a funding partner for RJI.
Salisbury has made a five-year pledge of $150,000, paying $30,000 a year to RJI.
“When we make a commitment, we honor our commitment,” Councilman Mark Lewis told the RJI contingent, which also included past RJI chairmen Brian Miller and Dyke Messinger.
Lewis added he was appalled at someone calling Mike Miller’s integrity into question and said he would stand by Miller anytime to defend his character.
Councilman Bill Burgin also defended Miller, whom he described as often doing twice the work for the reimbursement he received. Burgin said he was confident that the RJI board and an attorney had watched behind Miller and made sure conflicts of interest were avoided.
Council has keen interest in RJI’s next focus, which will promote the county’s abundance of water, especially through the city-owned Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.
SRU’s position on the Yadkin River has proven to be a reliable water resource, even in recent droughts.
SRU has determined that the county has the capacity to use 28 million gallons of water a day, but is only averaging 9 million gallons.
The water campaign’s message will promote SRU’s competitive water rate, the abundance of water, its reliability, the efficiency of the SRU system and its use of latest treatment technology.
The campaign also hopes to receive testimonials about water as a valuable resource from existing Rowan County companies such as Sunshine Construction, Thorlo, Southern Power, Freightliner, Envista and National Starch.
Water’s availability will be important to potential businesses such as bottlers, energy companies, chemical plants, food processors, microbreweries, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Messinger stressed that the campaign would not be framed as taking advantage of another area’s lack of water, but it will promote heavily the availability of the resource here.Lincoln County, for example, promotes its proximity to Lake Norman, he said.
“I particularly like the water campaign,” Burgin said. “The truth is, we have to sell water” based on the investment the city has made in the utility, he added
Burgin said that water will be the gold of the future.
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Woodson said council members were proponents of bringing jobs to the county, and he applauded the RJI’s efforts.
“Please don’t get discouraged, because this council is behind you,” Woodson said.