New economic development board tests the water

By Vicki Hyatt | Jul 25, 2014

The revamped economic development effort in Haywood County got off to a slow start last week when 10 of the 22 board members missed the first meeting.

A committee to craft by-laws was set up, and those present left with marching orders — to fill in the gaps of a proposed five-year strategic plan for the effort.

The beginnings of the plan were crafted by the task force that examined whether a public/private partnership effort to spur economic development was feasible, and if so, how it might look. Previously, the county led economic development efforts with the help of a board that included municipal, business and county representatives.

The revamped effort is now a part of the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce.

As with previous EDC meetings, a large part of the proceedings included updates from Mark Clasby, who switched from his county job to the post at the chamber.

Selling Haywood Regional Medical Center to Duke LifePoint has been a top priority, Clasby said, and a July 31 closing date is the target.

A $150,000 square-foot expansion at ConMet, a heavy truck parts manufacturer in the Beaverdam Indstrial Park, is going well, Clasby said, and work has started on the Sunburst Trout upgrade near the Regional High Technology Center.

The board briefly discussed the need for ore band width at a lower cost for businesses and residents who need higher speed Internet access. Much of the reconfigured economic development efforts at the state level will be Raleigh-centered, Clasby said, noting a number of state employees in the western part of the state will not be part of the new direction.

During an open discussion on how to implement the new economic development strategy locally, board members examined the new board's relationship with Haywood Advancement Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up to raise funds and aid in economic development. The board members agreed it was best to make only minor structural changes as needed in light of the successes realized from working together in the past.

The Chamber's new responsibilities in return for getting $223,000 in county funds to spearhead economic development efforts are outlined in an agreement that specifies measurable performance goals.

"The MOU is what we committed to," said Chamber President CeCe Hipps. "Now we need to bring in extra funds so economic development isn't totally supported by the county."

To do that, a well-thought out capital campaign will be needed. It was agreed the board will split into subcommittees to accomplish the tasks set forth in the agreement with the county.





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