Griffin defends Economic Development Corp. in Cornelius
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – While Cornelius commissioners were respectful of one of their own Monday night, they didn’t show the same respect for the agency he represents.
Mike Griffin, whose family owns tire and landfill businesses based in Cornelius, came to the town board May 24 as chairman of the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation. While responding to commissioners’ concerns, Griffin brought his own warning: If the towns begin withdrawing their support, the development agency could collapse like “a house of cards.”
Until a recent fundraising campaign drew an influx of dollars from private businesses, including Griffin Brothers, the development commission has depended largely on the three north Mecklenburg towns providing taxpayer dollars. But Cornelius commissioners have complained for years that the development agency spent all its resources trying to catch “big fish,” while ignoring potential medium- and small-size businesses that Cornelius and Davidson would love to have.
At one point this spring, Commissioner Dave Gilroy, who serves as the town’s representative to the development agency, had recommended cutting the town’s support by 25 percent in the coming year and more in years to come. But Griffin, Wachovia-Wells Fargo and other businesses that had just pledged large contributions to the agency cried foul, and Gilroy retreated from his position.
Griffin repeated Monday: “It would be extremely disappointing to me and many other businesses if the towns were to get out” of the Economic Development Corporation.
But Commissioner Jim Bensman said he still hopes the town will hold back 25 percent of its $75,850 contribution to the development agency and designate that 25 percent for recruiting small- and medium-size businesses. The Economic Development Corporation – and others – could bid for that money, but they’d have to use it for that purpose.
Griffin defended his agency in two ways. Every large company – like Swedish-owned ABB, which is coming to Huntersville – his agency brings to the area creates additional ancillary jobs. Those jobs go to small businesses like barber shops and auto repair companies, he said.
His agency also spends a lot of energy contacting local existing companies to make sure they have the support and resources they need, Griffin said. He suggested the Lake Norman chamber would be the agency to recruit new retail business.