Sanford, Broadway focus on improving economy, relationships in 2013

Mayors speak of forging positive path in new year
Jan. 15, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

For City of Sanford and Town of Broadway officials, improved relations with their county counterparts and an increased economic focus are priorities for the upcoming year.

Supporting and retaining current businesses while doubling recruiting efforts for new industries should be primary objectives for the city, according to Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive.

"We need to have a welcoming environment," she said. "Our tax rate is not bad; we have ample water supply, and we have enhanced our wastewater treatment plant. We have infrastructure that can accommodate just about anybody who would like to locate in Sanford."

The city has seen positive signs of recovery, and Sanford is positioned well to continue improving, Olive said. The Raleigh Executive Jetport at Sanford-Lee County and its growth is one barometer that can be used to assess Sanford's financial stability.

Sanford officials are also awaiting a decision from the Lee County Commissioners' ongoing discussion of possibly changing the sales tax distribution method. Moving from the population-based per capita model now in use to an ad valorem method would boost the county's revenue by $1.4 million, but cause a drop of nearly $1.5 million and $89,000 for Sanford and Broadway, respectively.

Olive said the city is not interested in an adversarial relationship with the county, and after the county makes a decision, the city will know what steps it will then need to take.

"The county commissioners are responsible for the entire county, and we are responsible for the city," she said. "We both have our priorities and obligations, and I understand the pressure they feel to run a good county. And we have the same obligation to run a good city."

Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews agreed with Olive and said the Broadway Board of Commissioners has put several projects on hold until the county reaches a decision on the sales tax distribution method.

"If we lose the sales tax, it is a whole different ballgame for us," Andrews said. "It may not seem like a lot of money, but it is a considerable amount for us."

The town and city have always had a good working relationship, Andrews said, and he is looking forward to a joint meeting scheduled between Broadway and Lee County. The Broadway Board of Commissioners officially requested a joint meeting between the two boards during the Lee County Commissioners' meeting last week.

"I just hope these meetings will improve communication and get a better understanding of what we are facing," Andrews said. "They have a different set of issues than the town, and we will try to find some common ground."

Broadway Commissioners are interested in adding more lighting on Main Street for pedestrians and vehicles, along with renovations to the town hall in coming years, Andrews said, but funding remains a concern.

"We don't want to make a commitment for long-term debt that we may not be able to afford in the future," he said. "We have plenty of projects to work on and improve, but until we know the financial picture, the board and myself are not willing to put on any more debt."

Broadway is also looking forward to its annual spring Broadway Our Way festival and adding new businesses to the area, Andrews said.

Bringing in new visitors and industry to the county is one of four priories for the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, according to chamber President Bob Joyce.

The county, city or town may not have a battlefield or large attractions, he said, but there are venues and places people want to visit, and Sanford should play to its strengths, he said. The other three priorities are deciding on an economic strategy and implementing it, improving workforce development and revitalizing the county's downtown areas.

An economic strategic plan is a frequent discussion among chamber members and community leaders, Joyce said, and determining the economic path for the area will be essential in the coming months and years.

"We never settled on a route, and we don't have benchmarks," Joyce said. "We need to establish goals and benchmarks, and let's get moving. Economic development, in terms of the chamber, city and county, this would be our number one."

Workforce training and development should also continue to be a focus, Joyce said.

"Employers continue to tell us the workers' skills do not match up for the jobs that are open," he said. "(Central Carolina Community College) had done a tremendous job, and the resources are there. We have to put some effort behind our middle and high school students and show how career and technical education can provide a great job, great income and a great family life."

The chamber is willing and intends to work with county, city and town governments to tackle the priorities in the coming months, according to Joyce.