Community leaders in sync on economic development

Oct. 04, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

With the logistical and financial structure of the new and all encompassing economic development organization yet to be determined, area leaders are in the process of agreeing upon its objectives.

A steering committee, composed of members representing government, education, business and various other community interests, and tasked with crafting the structure of a new economic development organization, met Thursday morning at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center — the third such meeting. The group discussed the goals of the new entity but not the funding, governing or staffing models for the nameless organization, which will replace of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation, according to Interim EDC Director Crystal Morphis.

Meetings on the draft program of work will continue throughout the year, along with a study to determine the amount of private investment that can be solicited from the community. By early 2014, the final draft structure and program should be in place, she said.

"I am encouraged every time I have a meeting in Lee County," Morphis said. "People in Lee County are very excited about moving forward in a positive direction for economic development. I am more and more encouraged."

All of the economic development components seem to be moving in rhythm, said EDC Board Chairman Donnie Oldham.

"We finally seem to have all of our energy in the same direction to try and create an environment to have more jobs in the county," he said. "That is where we are all headed and pulling in that direction."

Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack, who was filling in for Commission Chairman Charlie Parks, said Morphis did an excellent job incorporating the county's strategic plan, he said, adding the proposed draft includes action steps and metrics for each area of focus.   

"It went wonderfully," Womack said. "I thought it was one of the better efforts I have seen yet to synthesize all the upper-level guidance into a plan of action for the EDC."

The proposed goals for the draft program work include:

* Support education and workforce development

* New business recruitment

* Retain and expand existing business

* Small business and entrepreneur development

* Product development

* Agriculture development

* Develop tourism and visitor services

* Enhance quality of life

* Market Lee County

* Support infrastructure development

* Leadership development

Each of the goals were to be tackled by following strategies and action items and gauged by predetermined metrics, timeline and responsible agencies. 

"I am very pleased with the discussion and the great feedback from this morning," Womack said. "I think it will only get better with time. And I am pleased to see the town of Broadway, the chamber, EDC, commissioners and the city finding points of agreement."

Steering Committee members include Donald Andrews, Kirk Bradley, Andy Bryan, Susan Condlin, John Crumpton, Doug Doris, Hal Hegwer, Tina Gross, Alan Holt, Bill Horner III, Bob Joyce, Shelley Kelly, Bud Marchant, Crystal Morphis, Donnie Oldham, Cornelia Olive, Charlie Parks, Brad Simpson, Bob Stevens and Bill Wilson III.