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Edds wants business to help fund economic development agency

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds hopes to secure $100,000 from private businesses to help fund Rowan’s economic development agency.

First, however, county government is chipping in an additional $200,000 of its own. The money comes from an additional tax on services such as car repairs. It’s a small portion of the roughly $2 million in total new revenue Rowan is projected to receive from the new tax.

Edds says the transfer “will signal to the business community that we are committed to improving our growth.” In a presentation to commissioners this week, he said Rowan County is being left behind by other counties in the economic development race.

“We were not elected to manage the status quo or oversee the further decline of Rowan County,” Edds said. “We were elected to make bold decisions.”

Commissioners have been almost singularly focused on economic development projects since the newest group was elected in 2014. During this week’s presentation, commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene said economic development “will be the building block of what will help our county move forward.”

During his presentation, Edds argued that Rowan County isn’t funding its economic development agency at the same level as competitors. The budget of RowanWorks Economic Development is $635,000, with a portion of the budget consisting of money previously saved by the agency.

By comparison, Statesville’s economic development agency has a $500,000 annual budget and $150,000 in private sector funding, according to Edds. He said Mooresville’s agency has a budget of $420,000 and $100,000 in private sector funding.

Kannapolis, by itself, budgets $563,900 for economic development, he said.

Those examples are individual cities. Combined, Cabarrus County and its municipalities spend more than $3.3 million on economic development, he said. Lincoln County, much smaller in population than Rowan, has an economic development agency with a budget of $719,000.

Edds said Lee County — near Raleigh — has raised $1.3 million in private funding for its economic development agency. Chatham County borders Lee County and has raised $778,000 in private funding. Compared to Rowan County’s population, Lee and Chatham are roughly half the size.

Edds said Van Geons didn’t make the request for additional funding. Edds said it was his idea, and he presented an outline of what the additional $200,000 would be used for.

The largest expense in Edds’ plan would be $100,000 to hire a director of business development. The person’s job responsibilities wouldn’t be the same as RowanWorks Economic Development Director Robert Van Geons.

Instead, Edds and Van Geons said the new person would only focus on generating leads for businesses that want to move to Rowan. In Edds’ presentation, he said the new position would allow Rowan to take on new marketing efforts that can’t be done with current staff.

Other expenses included in Edds’ plan include hosting events, “recruitment missions,” content creation, marketing and various public relations. All total, his plan would cost $300,000, leaving the private sector to pick up $100,000 of the tab.

In his presentation, Edds said he’s got $30,000 in preliminary private sector commitments.

County commissioners unanimously approved Edds’ request.

Commenting on the request during Edds’ presentation, Van Geons said the current crop of county commissioners have done more in a couple of years to help Rowan County’s economic development efforts than other commissioners have done in decades.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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