Cornelius establishes direction for economic development
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Town officials hope a new department will energize economic development in Cornelius. Commissioners plan to allocate $100,000 to hire an economic development coordinator in the fiscal year beginning in July.
While Cornelius is taking some initiative in developing its own economy, officials plan to continue to work in conjunction with regional efforts.
The new coordinator doesn’t mean the town is backing out of the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Town Manager Anthony Roberts said he believed the two would complement each other.
“The position will focus on Cornelius alone where (the EDC) is a regional, three town organization,” Roberts said. “The Cornelius Economic Development Coordinator will focus on small to medium companies, but most importantly on how to help all of our existing Cornelius businesses expand and grow.”
Lake Norman EDC Executive Director Jerry Broadway agrees with Roberts, saying that his company doesn’t have the resources to zoom in on the same level as a town department.
“I see our organization and the town’s position as having different roles,” Broadway said. “We identify prospective companies and provide assistance if they move here. I don’t really see any duplication of services at all. We have two people on staff, so we’re not really set up to do the things a town (department) can.”
Those responsibilities include developing a business profile for Cornelius, then targeting companies that fit that profile to recruit. The coordinator will also contact existing businesses, find out their needs and help with issues, while working with other town departments to plan, promote and run events. The new coordinator will also promote tourism to support local businesses and evaluate the feasibility of establishing a Cornelius Small Business Development Center.
This latest push for an economic development coordinator started in 2010, as Cornelius launched a comprehensive master plan to map out the town’s future. Members of that master planning committee agreed that the town needed to be more active in economic development. Until now, the town had just contributed to the Lake Norman EDC.
“We have talked about this for several years, but the Comprehensive Master Plan drove it home,” Roberts said.
Currently, Cornelius is the only community in north Mecklenburg to be without an economic development department. The proposed $100,000 a year salary falls in the middle of comparable salaries. Huntersville’s coordinator makes $127,481 a year, while Davidson’s position can make as much as $87,725 or as little as $59,427. By comparison, Cornelius has 24,866 residents, as of the 2010 census. The closest town in population with an economic development department is Garner, which pays their coordinator $71,822.
Commissioners were still undecided at their June 4 meeting whether to contract out the job or create another town department.
Looking to move forward
The town would still help fund the Lake Norman EDC if commissioners approve the economic development position in the budget, Roberts said. He compared the Lake Norman organization to a group targeting ‘big fish’ to move into the region, while the town department would work on a smaller, local level.
“They will coordinate with each other on marketing, leads, available properties, potential incentives, etc.,” Roberts said.
Broadway said he didn’t see any problems in working with an economic development coordinator since the Lake Norman EDC already works with similar departments in Davidson and Huntersville.
A final vote on the town budget is set for Monday, June 18, at 7 p.m., at Cornelius Town Hall.