Strategic summit geared toward economic growth

Public, officials will offer input on future
Feb. 26, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

Area residents and organizations can take advantage of a unique outlet Friday to voice their vision of Lee County's economic future.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners is seeking input on this subject from members of the public and other interested parties during an Economic Strategic Growth Summit, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center.

The purpose, said Southern Growth Policies Board Executive Director Ted Abernathy, is for stakeholders — including governmental bodies, educational groups, nonprofits and residents — to determine their aspirations for the future of Lee County.

Abernathy, one of the summit's two facilitators, said he'd like the community members to focus on the overarching goals of economic development during the summit, instead of being bogged down in details.

"We need to focus on the big picture, instead of arguing about the specifics," he said. "I assume [the big picture] will include outreach to citizens, creating dashboards for economic development, diversify the economy and getting everyone on the same page."

According to an agenda drafted by Abernathy and N.C. State University Business and Technology Extension Service State Program Director Dan Parks, the summit will begin with an overview of how the county reached its current outlook on economic development, group discussions on establishing goals for future development and the responsibilities of each stakeholder.

Lee County Commissioner Chairman Charlie Parks said he hopes the stakeholders will reach a consensus on how best to help the county, along with the City of Sanford and Town of Broadway.

"It is very important to formalize this plan," Parks said. "We haven't had one in the past, or at least not a full plan with specifics for funding and details."

Hearing from constituents and organizations will be essential to the planning process, Parks said, and determining what can and cannot be supported by the county.

Lee County Manager John Crumpton said he's looking forward to interested participants gathering in a central place to discuss economic development.

"It's been a long time coming," he said. "We have worked hard to get an economic strategy for the county. As an organization, [the county needs] to have a vision so we can direct staff toward that goal."

The meeting will also include a presentation from the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lee County Economic Development Corporation about the two groups potentially merging to form an all-inclusive business recruiting and advocating organization.

"It's important for Lee County to work out these things," Abernathy said. "We are talking about people's jobs and people's livelihoods. It's important to have a strategic plan to get these ideas across."