12/10/07 — Duplin fleshes out plan for economic development

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Duplin fleshes out plan for economic development

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 10, 2007 2:01 PM

KENANSVILLE -- With an eye on having its new economic development structure in place by early 2008, the Duplin County Board of Commissioners listened recently to an outline of the bylaws for the two non-profits that will be replacing the current county department.

Prepared by consulting firm Sanford Holshouser Business Development Group, the bylaws explained the two entities' basic structures -- who the stakeholders and board members will be and how funds will be used.

"You want to get the most impact for your buck," consultant Ernie Pearson said.

And, he added, with both Wilmington and the Triangle growing and North Carolina's military bases expanding, Duplin County is in a good location to take advantage of a new economic development model.

"The time is right," he said. "You're right in the middle. You're in a highly desirable location."

He noted, though, that currently, the county is still in the early stages of creating this new partnership -- one that officials hope will receive support from all the municipalities.

"We're in a fluid situation right now," Pearson said.

But, he added, creating the two non-profits -- one a 501c3 and one a 501c6 -- was exactly the right first step to take.

"You're on the right track," he told the commissioners. "That's exactly what I thought you should do.

"Now, everybody that is important to your economic development program needs to have a buy-in and be part of this process."

The goal is for the 501c3 -- the Duplin County Economic Development Foundation -- to be the private sector fundraising arm of the economic development organization.

A board of directors, consisting of seven to 11 members will be elected, initially by the donors and then by the boards themselves. Members will serve three-year staggered terms and will be limited to two consecutive terms.

If dissolved, any remaining assets will be turned over either to the county or another economic development non-profit.

The other half of the organization, the 501c6 -- the Duplin County Economic Development Corporation -- will oversee its operations.

Its seven to 11 board members will be appointed by the county commissioners, the municipal government's association, the business community, the Wallace Committee of 100, the community college and by the foundation.

They, too, will serve staggered three-year terms for a limit of only two consecutive terms, and if it is dissolved, any contributing party will be refunded with the county receiving any other assets.

The advantage to splitting the efforts up, Pearson explained, is that it allows the foundation more leeway to raise money from the business community and to apply for grant funding, while the corporation directs the day-to-day operations of the organization.

"This is a great first step," Wallace Mayor Charlie Farrior said. "There are some details to be worked out, but I know at the end of the day we're going to be better off."

However, Pearson continued, getting all the parties to come an agreement on the by-laws and basic organization structure is only the first step.

"Economic development is not a short-term thing. You will need a long-term commitment," he said.

The organization also will need a director as Woody Brinson, the county's longtime economic development manager, will be retiring on Jan. 31.

The goal, said County Manager Mike Aldridge, "is to have somebody in place very soon" -- possibly by the end of January.