12/16/05 — Joining forces, officially

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Joining forces, officially

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on December 16, 2005 1:53 PM

A decision by the Goldsboro and Mount Olive committees of 100 to merge economic development efforts will pay off big for Wayne County, officials with the two groups said.

The committees agreed Thursday to merge and create a coordinated organization focused on recruiting and retaining industry in the county. They will be partners with the county Economic Development Commis-sion and the county Board of Commissioners.

"I feel like I came in as a representative of the Mount Olive Committee of 100. I feel like I will leave as a representative for Wayne County," said David Kornegay, president of the Mount Olive group.

The new, combined Wayne economic development organization will benefit from a fund-raising campaign titled "Impact Wayne," which officials say will raise more than $3 million over the next five years.

The merger will take place over the next six months, officials said. Although a name for the combined organization was not announced, its structure was revealed at a ceremony at the Walnut Creek Country Club attended by Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Mrs. Perdue said the cooperation demonstrated by the merger shows Wayne is committed to improving its economic fortunes.

"For all of you, for every town involved, for every economic development committee that signed on, for all of you committed to Impact Wayne, I congratulate you today and I'm convinced that this is an organization that will make an important difference in bringing jobs to your community and to North Carolina," Mrs. Perdue said.

In a speech following the signing of the agreement, Mrs. Perdue cited Wayne's role as a leader in economic devlopment in eastern North Carolina and the advances the county has made over the past 15 years. She noted strides the county has made in tourism, housing and employment.

In 1990, Wayne generated $53 million in tourism dollars, she said. Last year, the total was twice that amount. Wayne is one of the fastest growing residential areas in North Carolina, Mrs. Perdue said, with 1,500 housing permits issued last year. Unemployment in the county has decreased to 5.3 percent.

Mrs. Perdue said she believes the unemployment rate could drop even more following the news that Seymour Johnson Air Force Base will have its mission expanded. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission announced in the spring that Seymour Johnson would gain 362 jobs. Even more jobs could come to the county if industries that specialize in military defense choose to locate to the area, Mrs. Perdue said.

"For BRAC, you put together a powerful working team -- leaders from business and industry and government and the military. We made a strong case to the Pentagon and to Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld -- for Seymour Johnson's value, for the community's strong support for the military and the potential of Seymour Johnson to do even more in the future as a part of a modern military," she said.

The board of directors of the combined organization will consist of four representatives from Goldsboro, three from Mount Olive, two appointed by the county commissioners, the county manager and a representative of Impact Wayne, EDC President Joanna Thompson said.

EDC employees will still be county employees. However, Ms. Thompson said, the positions will be leased to the new non-profit group for operational purposes.

Since the new organization will use public and private money for operations, Ms. Thompson said private organizations should be assured that its contributions will directly improve economic development in the region.

"Funds acquired from the private sector fundraising efforts shall be used be used mainly for client handling and marketing," she said.

Money appropriated by the county will be used for the personnel and administrative costs. However, funds needed for product development, such as industrial sites and shell buildings, would be paid through county and private money, Ms. Thompson said.

Splitting the product development costs could be a benefit for the county, said Goldsboro Committee of 100 member Jimmie Edmundson, considering the costs incurred by industrial sites.

"It costs about $50,000 to get a site certified. Clients want to see a certified site. We need to have it in our inventory," Edmundson said.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said the merger will help brighten the county's economic future.

"This has been in the making for many, many years. We are coming together as one entity of a public, private partnership. This is more than a committee. This is about the municipalities, businesses and industries," Smith said.