Commissioners, EDC discuss economic goals
by Kellen Short
County commissioners and the Economic Development Commission met Tuesday to discuss how the EDC could best pursue economic growth in light of commissioners' refusal in August to purchase land for a business park.
EDC Vice Chairman Joseph Miller posed three questions to commissioners: What do you want for the county's economic future? What do you want the EDC to do? Should the EDC seek a tract of land for a business park?
"We're not asking for a rubber stamp. I think what we were asking for more is guidance," Miller said. "If we're not bringing you what you expect, then we're wasting your time and our time. We've all got better things to do than to do that."
Commissioners agreed that they all wanted more high-paying jobs for county residents and said they wanted to consider other tracts for a potential business park. They also urged EDC members to continue other smaller endeavors they are doing to encourage existing businesses and entrepreneurs.
The Board of Commissioners also emphasized that they wanted the sharp business minds on the EDC to come up with solutions and continue striving to improve the local economy.
"I don't want you to feel dejected, rejected and deflated," Commissioners Chairman Nathan Miller said. "I want some more good ideas from y'all. You've had them in the past. You'll have them in the future."
EDC member Dan Meyer pointed to what he said were two missed opportunities for the county to show support for economic development -- the business park and a request for $150,000 toward the new Appalachian Regional Healthcare System project in Blowing Rock.
"The question is, what do we bring next? What can we bring? What do you want us to do? Where do you want us to go?" Meyer said.
Commissioners also discussed whether the EDC ought to lobby on behalf of economic development plans and market its proposals to the community.
The board also discussed numerous barriers to boosting economic activity, including strained relations with the town of Boone, infrastructure difficulties, high land prices and more.
Commissioner Perry Yates said the difficulty and time involved in meeting town ordinances led him to move part of his business into Caldwell County, where he found cheaper land and quicker turnaround.
Yates questioned whether the county ought to be offering incentives to draw businesses to the county.
"Bottom line is, what are we offering the industry to come to Boone? And so far, I've seen nothing," he said.
At the suggestion of Planning and Inspections Director Joe Furman, the commissioners agreed to allow the EDC to inexpensively create a master plan for an imaginary business park, something that would allow the county to better discern the types of businesses it might want to recruit and how land might be used at a business park.
"I think this has been productive," Furman said. "It sounds like the EDC's been on the right track and needs to stay on it."