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Commissioners direct $40K to EDC for marketing

RowanWorks, the county’s economic development agency, now has another $40,000 to immediately spend on marketing courtesy of county commissioners.

At Monday’s meeting, three commissioners voted to repurpose $40,362, formerly earmarked for regional development, to the EDC since Rowan County no longer is connected with the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

With the coming close of the 2013-14 fiscal year, the EDC only has about a month and a half to spend the money.

Commissioner Chad Mitchell said the EDC will be able to immediately begin spending the money on airport marketing, industrial prospect identification, Department of Commerce recruitment trips as well as call center and data center recruitment, among other ventures.

“When we made the motion to not go into the Charlotte Regional Partnership group in this fiscal year, we said we were going to use that ($40,362) for economic development,” Mitchell said.

In a memo to commissioners, RowanWorks Executive Director Robert Van Geons said the county has lost an important source of project leads now that it is no longer part of the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

“In order to remain competitive, we need to find new ways to remain visible in the marketplace,” Van Geons wrote. “Perhaps even more importantly, the CRP provided us access to important research, contacts and organizations, which were beneficial to our recruitment efforts.”

Commissioner Jon Barber said commissioners need to keep in mind the county needs to have “a seat at the table.”

“From the Charlotte Regional Partnership to the Centralina Council of Governments to The Carolina Thread Trail — we’re slowly isolating ourselves into just being Rowan County and not a part of the state of North Carolina,” Barber said. “I agree with (Mitchell) that the dollars should go to the EDC right now.”

At Rowan County Airport, about $7,000 to $12,000 will be used to add additional signage and marketing information, fund participation in various marketing events and expand marketing collateral regarding new hangers, potential T-Hangars and development sites.

According to Van Geons’ list detailing the dispersal of the $40,000, anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 will be directed toward contracting research and appointment setting to initiate direct meetings with companies considering new industrial locations in Rowan County.

“This would be a performance-based contract that requires successfully introducing us to projects in order for the company to be paid,” Van Geons wrote.

Commissioners Jim Sides and Craig Pierce voted against the motion.

“I will not be voting for this initiative,” Sides said at Monday’s meeting. “I could consider allocating the money to the EDC for these purposes in the new budget year. Ronald Reagan said government will find a use for all the money it gets, and here is one where we are nearing the end of the budget.”

The county does not allow departments “to go out and spend money” at the end of the fiscal year, Sides said.

“We’ve been watching very closely around April and May. If these projects were that important, they could have come to us before now,” Sides said. “The EDC carries a windfall of four months operating capital. The county has less than one-and-a-half months.”

If the projects were important and Van Geons had pulled money from the windfall account, spent it on the projects and was asking commissioners for money to replace it, Sides said “that might be another consideration.”

“This is just a matter of somebody spending the money that is there and decided we needed to find a way to spend it,” Sides said. “A lot of these things would be good. I think they could be funded next year.”

Commissioners Mike Caskey, Barber and Mitchell voted in favor of giving the money to RowanWorks.

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