Stakeholders learn details of Chamber, EDC merger

Nov. 05, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

Local business leaders were able to learn more about a potential merger between the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and Lee County Economic Development Corporation Monday. 

The Public Policy Luncheon at The Flame restaurant was the second such gathering in as many weeks for Chamber members to express their concerns about or support for the proposed EDC-Chamber merger.

After sharing plans, vision statements and county-wide report cards created over the past few years, and in some cases decades, Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce said now was the time for the various governmental bodies and economic development organizations to come together to move forward.

"I've got to tell you folks," Joyce said. "If we were ever not on the same page, by golly, we are on the same page now."

Chamber Board of Directors Chairman Brad Simpson said some Chamber members have expressed concerns about the Chamber losing influence or ceasing to exist.

"The Chamber is not going away," Simpson said. "It will still exist, but with greater resources."

The new economic development organization (EDO) would tentatively have a board of 22 to 30 people, representing both the private and public sectors, along with ex officio members like the Lee County Schools superintendent and Central Carolina Community College president.

The program of work will be finalized this week after a meeting of the steering committee, which consists of business, government and community leaders, on Thursday, Simpson said. The organization is set to have five subcommittees with the following outlines and focuses:

* Economic Development Committee: New business recruitment, workforce development, business retention and expansion, product and infrastructure development and marketing and communications.

* Chamber Committee: Small business development, entrepreneurship, retail development, marketing and communications, quality of life, community leadership and business advocacy.

* Marketing and Promotions Committee: Visitor services, event planning and marketing and communications.

* Agriculture Committee: Agriculture marketing, communication, land preservation and farm-to-market issues.

* Investors Committee: Advising the board on business and industry issues and reviewing progress of fundraising plan goals.

Kirk Bradley, one of the steering committee members, said joining these organizations will not only create efficiency but effectiveness. For too long, he said, the economic development organizations within the county were not properly funded to accomplish their goals.

"We, as a community, will fail if we don't add money," he said. "And we will need resources annually to reach the mark."

Once the organization's program of work is finalized, it will be sent to the Broadway Board of Commissioners, Lee County Board of Commissioners, Lee County Economic Development Corporation Board, Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Sanford City Council for approval, Simpson said. A private funding assessment will begin and continue into the winter months.