EDC, Chamber consider forming joint entity

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

The Lee County Economic Development Corporation is informally weighing the benefits of forming a comprehensive economic and business development group, which includes encompassing the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce — among other business advocate entities.

The EDC Board held a morning-long retreat Wednesday to discuss the possibility and is still in the early planning stages.

EDC Board Chairman Donnie Oldham said ideally the group would also have input from Central Carolina Community College and other entities focused on economic development.

"I think we have a lot of groups trying to do a lot of different things," Oldham said. "We feel like we need to get under one umbrella so everybody is on the same page, there are no duplications and nothing is left out."

The organization would be a private-public partnership that serves as a business advocate focusing on economic development and bringing visitors into the area.  Public funding would hopefully remain at the current levels, he said, and then additional funding could come from the private sector to add to what the organization can do.

"We would have something so unique to what Lee County needs and not be tied to following someone else," Oldham said.

CCCC President Bud Marchant, who serves as the secretary and treasurer of the EDC Board, said he is personally in favor of a joint group.

"We don't need multiple business organizations in a small community," he said. "They tend to be weak. What we need is a strong business advocate to move Lee County forward. — one that focuses on industrial recruiting, visitor recruiting, retail recruiting and business development that can be done in a unified way."

The idea was briefly mentioned during the Lee County Board of Commissioners' economic planning meeting Wednesday, and Oldham said more details would be presented at the county's economic summit scheduled for March 1.

The March 1 summit is the county's chance to receive input from the community and the economic development stakeholders regarding a county economic strategic plan, said Lee County Commissioner Charlie Parks.

"The proof is in the details," Parks said. "We don't have the details yet on what they are planning to do, but I think the March 1 meeting will be an important meeting to get the input."

Oldham said there was no action taken by the EDC Board or the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. The two groups intend to meet by the end of this month to plan for the March 1 summit.

Chamber President Bob Joyce said he's interested in seeing what a joint EDC and Chamber of Commerce would look like.

"You have all of these efforts going together independently, but if we pull together, it will be great for us in the long run," he said. "It will certainly focus our efforts and enable us to compete with larger communities."

For current businesses and ones considering locating to Lee County, the joint group would act as a one-stop shop, he said.

"I certainly do think it would do good long term for the county," Joyce said. "I think one of our advantages is our small size, and we can move quickly to take advantage of opportunities ... I think it makes a lot of sense to combine efforts."