The Anson Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) voted unanimously to support County Manager Lawrence Gatewood’s recommendation that Anson no longer be part of the Charlotte Regional Partnership. The vote was made after a discussion of the county’s proposed budget at the AEDC’s regular monthly meeting Thursday.
Before getting to the Charlotte Regional Partnership decision, Gatewood stated that the commissioners would hold a public hearing on the budget Thursday night. The proposed budget is $26.5 million, he said, which is down slightly from last year, due to some capital expenses this year. Gatewood said a major goal for the next fiscal year is to improve Anson County’s tax collection rate, which is currently at 92.68 percent.
“The target is to move to 95 percent,” he said, adding that the statewide rate is 97 percent, and other counties Anson’s size have 95-percent collection rates.
The budget also includes $3.7 million for Anson County Schools and $794,000 for South Piedmont Community College. The renovations to the courthouse will continue into the next fiscal year as well, Gatewood said.
As part of the budget, Gatewood recommended that the county not renew its membership with the Charlotte Regional Partnership, which is an economic development organization made up of 16 counties. The total population of the 16-county region is 2.7 million, he added, which makes it easy for a small county like Anson to get lost in the shuffle.
“We were questioning this investment and really couldn’t find what we’re getting out of it,” Gatewood said, adding that the county pays $7,000 a year to be part of the partnership.
AEDC member Fred Sparger said he hated to see the county leave an organization that could potentially bring jobs to the area. “But,” he said, “it’s hard to argue with Lawrence’s logic.”
Chuck Horne, AEDC chair, said that the Charlotte Regional Partnership’s director, Ronnie Bryant, had contacted him in order to sway him toward staying with the organization. Horne said that according to information from Bryant, the Charlotte Regional Partnership had sent 27 inquiries for potential businesses locating in Anson, but had received no response.
Mary Beck, who has taken over economic development duties for the county, said that she had responded, with photos and building information, but had never heard anything back.
“We receive about 15 emails a week from them and the majority of them are not inquiries,” she said.
The group then began to discuss why it is so difficult to draw new business to Anson. “It’s a quality of life thing,” Hugh Wallace said. “If you want to see a movie, you’ve got to go to Albemarle or Monroe. If you want to go to a restaurant that’s not fast food, you have to go to Albemarle or Rockingham.”
Beck said that another reason it was hard to recruit businesses is that many of the buildings in the county are owned by the same group of people, who are only willing to rent a portion of a building. Beck said that she and Gatewood still receive referrals from the Department of Commerce so she didn’t feel that the county would miss out on any potential companies moving to the area.
Sparger then motioned for the group to support Gatewood’s recommendation. The vote passed unanimously.
In other business, local Realtor Russell Sikes, also a member of the school board, said that he wanted to have Superintendent Dr. Greg Firn appear at the next meeting to talk about some of the school system’s recent successes, as well as its public image.
Chamber of Commerce executive director Lynn Edwards reported that the Chamber is focused on building its membership, which has taken a hit during the recession. The Chamber is also working on its 2013 calendar and a new Anson County map.
The AEDC will next meet at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 16 at the Chamber of Commerce, 107-A E. Wade St., Wadesboro.