EDC holds last meeting before transition

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | May 19, 2014

The current Haywood County Economic Development Council met for the last time on Thursday before economic development is turned over the Chamber of Commerce.

As of July 1, the economic development functions that have been handled by a two-person county staff and a small board will be handed over to the chamber and a 24-member Economic Development Commission. The new commission will include the county manager, a county commissioner, representatives from each municipality and the business community.

Current EDC members thanked Director Mark Clasby for his many years of dedication and hard work and also reminisced on the many difficult projects undertaken by the board. Transitioning is always a difficult task, but it’s the name of the game when it comes to growth.

“It’s not the end, it’s just the beginning,” said Chairman Mike Sorrells.

Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown said the process was never ending when it came to economic development project.

For example, Clasby reported that ConMet in Canton had broken ground on a new expansion that would add at least 80 jobs in the county.

“ConMet was the first major project we did 11 years ago when we first reconfigured the EDC,” Brown said. “And here they are again expanding.”

Other major projects have included Haywood Vocational Opportunities, Sonoco Plastics, livestock market, the hospital transitions, getting more broadband connections and going after rural center grants.

“And look at the Walmart shopping center,” said Commissioner Kevin Ensley. “It was an eyesore and now it’s an economic engine.”

Sorrells said he had been reluctant about the latest transition, but knowing that Clasby would be at the helm throughout the changes made him feel more at ease about it.

While brining in new businesses has been a primary goal, board members emphasized the importance of retaining the jobs already in Haywood County — an area in which the EDC feels it has been successful.

“It’s amazing what the public doesn’t know about the effort that goes into making these things happen,” Sorrells said.

Clasby said he was proud of the work they had done to retain jobs in the county, and that work continues with trying to help Evergreen Packaging in Canton secure funding for a major environmental upgrade.

“It’s always been a challenge, an interest and a passion of mine,” Clasby said. “There’s always a next challenge and that’s exciting, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of this board and the county commissioners.”

Board members also had well wishes and prayers for Clasby, who is currently undergoing cancer treatments while trying to stay on top of ongoing projects.

“I pray for you every day,” Ensley said.

“As a friend and a commissioner, I have appreciated your guidance,” Sorrells said.

Clasby said he was working closely with Chamber President CeCe Hipps to make the transition as smooth as possible, including transferring over email addresses, contacts and telephone numbers.

He said a dinner reception would be held June 10 at Laurel Ridge Country Club to introduce the new EDC board.

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