Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 7, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — In a public statement released Tuesday, the Charlotte Regional Partnership said it wants to talk to Rowan County officials about why the county is withholding its funding.
The statement, signed by CEO Ronnie Bryant and First Vice Chair Alan G. Dexter, says, “We look forward to talking with … the Rowan County commissioners in detail about any county concern.”
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to withhold the county’s annual contribution of $36,326 to the nonprofit marketing organization, in light of a bonus given to its chief executive officer.
Robert Van Geons, county economic development director, said Tuesday that he expressed concern about this move to the county manager and commissioners.
“I certainly understand and agree with their discontent regarding the $64,000 bonus paid to Ronnie Bryant,” Van Geons said. “However, regional economic development can work well and be effective.”
County economic development officials have been in discussions with the organization, he said, about how it could achieve more results for the entire region.
Van Geons said he hopes they will enact changes that make commissioners more comfortable with continuing in the partnership.
“I hope that the Charlotte Regional Partnership recognizes the concerns of Rowan County and, I’m sure, others in the region,” he said.
Rowan commissioners have raised concerns that the partnership represents the interests of the city of Charlotte more than its surrounding counties.
The partnership’s Tuesday statement stresses that it is a “true regional organization.”
“By marketing all 16 counties, the Charlotte Regional Partnership has a broader pool of assets that is more likely to attract a greater number of companies,” the statement reads.
The partnership says it “redoubled its efforts” to market the region during the session, and that is now paying off.
“We are seeing encouraging signs of private-sector expansion,” the statement reads, “and the Charlotte Regional Partnership is working hard to increase opportunities for all 16 counties in our region to receive inquiries and site visits from businesses looking to locate or expand in our region.”
Van Geons said the organization does provide the county with valuable resources. It helped bring the Toyota Racing Development project and the filming of “Leatherheads” to Rowan County.
“There is a return on our investment in Charlotte Regional Partnership,” Van Geons said, “but I also understand and agree with the commissioners continually reassessing the cost-to-benefit ratio.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.