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In commissioner bid, Edds focused on jobs, economy

If Greg Edds made a list of his priorities as a county commissioner, every item would be identical.
Edds, a Republican running for Rowan County’s Board of Commissioners, says his primary focus, if elected, is on boosting the area’s economy.
It’s his first crack at elected office, though Edds has served on various other semi-governmental boards, such as the Rowan County Airport Board and Chamber of Commerce.
Born in West Virginia and reared in Florida, Edds isn’t a Rowan County native, but says he quickly adjusted to calling Salisbury home when he moved to the area.
“I can still remember pulling into town at about 2 in the morning in a rental car, driving around the neighborhoods and pointing our headlights at these Cape-Cod style homes and Georgia brick homes and just thinking it was beautiful,” Edds said.
He moved to Rowan County to open his own State Farm Insurance agency.
Edds announced his candidacy in November 2013. He said a lack of progress in Rowan County is the reasoning behind his bid for the board of commissioners.
“I swore I would never run for local politics, but I have grown increasingly saddened by the seemingly downward spiral of Rowan County,” he said. “Something needs to change. My main concern and drive in running for office is to begin to ask tough questions about our economic plans.”
He referenced poverty rates as an example of the downward spiral. Rowan County’s poverty rate was about 9 percent, Edds said. More recent figures show Rowan County’s poverty rate at 28.4 percent.
His concerns about poverty and economics boil down to one simple question: What is the recipe for success for communities?
“Successful communities seem to be able to form tight collaboration at the intersection of business, local government, education and community,” he said. “Economic growth is the engine that helps us fund our social assets. (Social assets) in turn bring us more economic success, which just perpetuates the cycle.”
When asked, Edds agreed that commissioners can’t create jobs, but he said that politicians can create the environment to help private business add employees.
“Politicians come and go,” he said. “It has to be a culture of change and the only ones that are here for the long term is business, industry and the private sector. Government obviously has to be a collaborative partner.”
Though he hasn’t been elected yet, Edds said he’s worked with Economic Development Director Robert Van Geons to find specific sectors that Rowan County is best suited to house.
The job sectors the pair identified are: logistics and distribution centers, food processing, advanced manufacturing, automation and technology, call centers and general retail.
Edds clarified that Van Geons is not working on his campaign or publicly endorsing Edds.
The next crop of commissioners will likely have two significant infrastructure decisions to make shortly after taking their seats, namely the future of the former Salisbury Mall and a potential county water system.
Edds said the new commissioners would have a space needs study and mall master plan when new terms begin. A truly informed decision about the mall’s future requires both, he said. It’s information that Edds says the commissioners should have gathered before even making the purchase.
“Here’s the false choices we are given, which I reject,” he said. “One extreme says dump the building at any cost and the other says develop the mall at any cost. If this were anybody’s privately held property, they would lay awake at night, trying to think of 100 different options, but (commissioners) are only given two and supposed to pick one or the other.”
Edds guaranteed that he would ensure the mall is never used as a tool to hurt the economy and culture of downtown Salisbury.
A county-owned water system could help tremendously boost Rowan County’s economy, if it’s feasible, Edds said. Though, he believes Rowan County government missed out on a tremendous opportunity for collaboration.
“The county and city, for the benefit of a shared goal of economic development, could cooperate in this water, sewer thing,” he said. “I would have gone to the city and asked to do the feasibility study together. That was a missed opportunity.”
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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