A county-wide economic development plan in its final stages has elected and other officials unsure about what would be asked of them.
A group of city and county leaders, mostly from New Bern and Havelock, met at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center Monday for the second formal presentation by RKG Associates Inc. about the plan, which was commissioned by the county.
Those leaders wanted most to know who would pay what part of the tab to operate a new 501(C)(3) nonprofit economic development group, who would be on its board, what size board would be, whose interests it would most represent and how fast it could reasonably expect to be up and running.
“That depends on the communities,” said Kyle S. Tolente, vice president of RKG. “They need to talk about what they are willing and aren’t willing to participate in.”
Tolente said he thought that in one to four weeks work could be done to move the organization forward for six months, but that it could take up to two years for the group to get in place.
The proposal is scheduled to go to a strategic planning work group Wednesday for some final decisions.
Tolente gave general recommendations and highlighted those he thought a planning group feels were most important. He said the bottom line for recruiting new industries and supporting and expanding existing ones is that all involved work together for the common good of all, regardless of the location of the business or industry.
Craven County’s new economic development director is expected to lead the new nonprofit group, and the Craven County Board of Commissioners has tentatively agreed to fund additional staff if necessary.
Commissioner Steve Tyson said that several people involved in the process met with Wayne County economic development leaders recently.
“I think what worked best for Wayne County will work best for us as well,” he said. “The county provides most of the money, but having the partnerships allows them to have a collaborative effort that can have fundraisers.”
He said in Wayne County, similar to Craven because it has a military air base, the private sector raised about $3.2 million with the promise of creating a certain number of jobs.
“Counties don’t have sewer, power and other services that attract business that municipalities do have, that community colleges do have, that hospitals do have,” Tyson said. “If you want someone to take an interest in something, you try to get a little bit of money out of them.”
Craven Community College President Catherine Chew said she attended Wayne County meetings, and the newly created economic development nonprofit had a memorandum of understanding for measurable delivery of jobs over five years or a return of the money.
The community that contributed, if they didn’t feel good about it, had an out in the end, she said.
“Nobody has asked for their money back,” Chew said.