Draft: Economic development alliance will need backing
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
A proposed alliance of local governments and private businesses to manage economic development in Pitt County and its municipalities will need private sector backing to move forward, according to a draft plan for the effort.
Pitt County Manager Scott Elliott updated the Board of Commissioners at their Monday meeting on efforts to form the alliance — officials from the county and city of Greenville in February funded a study to possibly streamline multiple economic development efforts.
They each contributed $10,000 to pay Convergent Nonprofit Solutions to help develop a plan. Elliott on Monday highlighted portions of a draft document outlining the goals of the new organization and the next steps in the process. Convergent is scheduled to present a final document in the fall, Elliott said.
“It basically takes the success we’ve had in economic development and proposing a new model to hopefully make us even more successful,” Elliott said.
Officials initiated the study after questions emerged about entities duplicating efforts to attract businesses and jobs to Pitt County and its municipalities.
Pitt County has a development commission that focuses on recruiting and retaining industry. It was created by state legislation in 1957 and has twice been amended, Elliott said. It’s a four-person operation.
The city of Greenville launched an office of economic development in 2012. It’s mission, according to city website, is to “support businesses that sell goods and services outside of the Greenville metropolitan statistical area,” to recruit new business and expand existing businesses.
The Pitt Committee of 100 is a nonprofit that formed in the mid-1990s to provide a broader network of support for economic development efforts in the county.
Greenville Utilities hired a business development specialist last year to work with existing large industrial customers and support economic development efforts of other groups.
East Carolina University also has launched a rural development initiative.
The draft document proposes operating the alliance as a nonprofit, using the Committee of 100’s 501(c)(3) status.
The alliance would have a governing board featuring representatives from the county, city of Greenville, GUC, other local government officials and representatives from the private sector investments, according to the draft.
Funding would come from a public-private partnership with financial investment from the the county, Greenville, GUC, the county’s nine other municipalities and the private sector.
Convergent representatives will be reaching out to about 80 private sector leaders beginning later this month to meet and discuss their interest in financially supporting the organization, Elliott said.
It’s estimated the alliance will need $1.25 million annually to operate, a five-year total of $5.35 million. The draft didn’t state how the amount would be divided between the private sector and government entities.
“If there is not private sector funding then this model of public/private partnership obviously is missing one of the three legs of the stool,” Elliott said.
The alliance’s five-year plan will have seven objectives; recruiting new business, expanding and retaining existing business, developing sites and business parks, workforce development, strengthening legislative relations and business advocacy efforts, encouraging small business growth and development and setting benchmarks for performance measures, communications and updating investors and stakeholders.
The document proposes six metrics for measuring success in the five-year period; creating 2,750 jobs that pay at or above the county’s average wage, conducting 160 business retention or expansion visits yearly, achieving a “satisfied” or “very satisfied” survey rating from 85 percent of existing industries, securing site certification for more than 300 acres and achieving $1.25 billion in new capital investment.
It’s recommended the alliance be launched July 1, 2019, Elliott said. However, a governing document will have to be written. The steering committee overseeing the project has engaged another company to write the governing document.
Elliott said existing economic development employees with each organization have been told they will remain employed but their jobs may shift. While staffing would come under the alliance board’s supervision, questions about benefits, retirement and employment status must still be decided, Elliott said.
There also is the matter that Pitt County Development Commission Director Wanda Yuhas has announced she plans to retire in the spring and the city of Greenville’s development office has an acting manager.
Commissioner Tom Coulson said the draft document has left him with many questions, including staffing and salaries.
“How do my questions get into this mix so somebody can understand I would like answers,” Coulson said. Without the answers he will have a difficult time approving the document and whatever recommendations it brings.
Elliott recommended Coulson and the other commissioners submit whatever questions they have to him.
Contact Ginger Livingston at email@example.com and 329-9570.