County inks economic agreement with Monroe

Nov. 20, 2012 @ 06:23 PM

The Union County Board of Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement between the county and the City of Monroe for a new countywide economic development program.

Commissioners Jerry Simpson, Todd Johnson and Jonathan Thomas voted for the agreement, while outgoing Commissioner Tracy Kuehler voted against.

The agreement still faces a vote by the Monroe City Council. If adopted, the agreement's terms take effect on January 1 and can be renewed when it expires in June 2015.

The agreement would begin a partnership where the county contracted with Monroe to expand the city's current economic development program to include recruitment and expansion of business in the unincorporated areas of the county. The other 13 municipalities can also participate by pledging an annual payment, according to the adopted agreement. The first six months of the program will focus on recruiting other towns in the county to participate in the program.

The county will pay $400,000 to the new economic development program. The city's contribution is $300,000.

A 24-member board will oversee and advise the economic development staff. The county commissioners will appoint eight voting members and the city council will appoint another eight voting members. Another group of eight will be non-voting members comprised of the Monroe mayor, city manager, the county manager, a city council representative, a county commissioner representative, the superintendent of schools, the president of South Piedmont Community College and president of the Union County Chamber of Commerce.

Each voting member will serve a three-year term. Terms will be staggered, so for the first year, three appointed members serve three years, three serve two years and one serves one year.

According to the agreement, Monroe staff will write the joint economic development program's budget and maintain financial records, but the county has the right to examine the city's books at any time. The agreement also includes a provision for the city to reimburse the county for any expense that was not compatible with the interlocal agreement.

Of the five-person economic development staff, one will be dedicated to recruiting and maintaining businesses outside the city limits. Those five staff members will remain Monroe city employees. The agreement notes that, should the program need to replace the executive director, a position currently held by Chris Platé, hiring will be done with participation of both the county and the city.

Once the program is in place, economic development staff will meet with representatives of each participating municipality to gather information on what kind of development each community wants, what sites should be developed for potential businesses and strengthening existing businesses. According to the agreement, a work plan for each community will be written as a guide for the individual desires of each area.

The agreement calls for staff to produce a monthly written report for review by the county manager and the economic development advisory board. A yearly report stating the number of new businesses, expansion of existing businesses, new jobs, average wages and other pertinent information will be produced for the county manager and county commission. 

Whether or not to offer businesses economic development incentives will be up to the city and the county, and neither party or the advisory board can bind another party to contributing to incentive payment.

Before voting, Commissioner Simpson thanked the Union County Partnership and its chair, Ken Harris, for the hard work done serving as the county's economic development program since 2005.