The merger between Monroe Economic Development and Union County Partnership for Progress has been negotiated by the Union County Board of Commissioners and Monroe City Council.
The next step is to have lawyers start to work out the details and contracts, Chris Platé, executive director of economic development and aviation, said.
The advantages of the partnership, Platé told Monroe City Council at the Tuesday night meeting, is that it eliminates duplicate staff and costs, delivers a consistent message, prevents confusion for prospects and creates one voice for economic development.
It is rare to see a municipality lead in economic development, Platé said.
"Eventually, Monroe will be hurt by not having a consistent voice," he told the council.
Platé and Interim City Manager Greg Demko met with the County Manager Cindy Coto and Assistant County Manager Wes Baker, who agreed to the key aspects of Monroe's proposal. Those aspects included keeping the current office structure, having a budget of $300,000 from the city and $400,000 from the county, adding a staff member for the county, keeping Assistant Director Ron Mahle dedicated to Monroe, making the director and staff county-wide positions, maintaining the current logo, giving the city hiring power and starting with five employees.
The county changed the city's proposal dealing with the board.
The county proposed for the city to have eight voting members, instead of seven and for the county to have eight voting members instead of five, for a total of 16 voting members, opposed to 12.
The city's proposal stated that the city would retain the chairman and vice chairman. The county's proposal stated that the city would retain the chairman position for two years. The county also added eight ex-officio members instead of four.
Instead of adding other municipalities as ex-officio officers, which the city proposed, the county offered to allow other municipalities to "buy in" to six of their eight seats.
While City Council was concerned with the size of the board, they voted unanimously to accept the proposal.
"It was demonstrated that we can work with that," Platé said in an interview. "It's a lot to administer with a larger board."
In addition, the group will develop a nonprofit organization to help with economic development. Funding, if not spent, will roll-over and not go into the general fund. Staff would develop a county-wide work plan that incorporated Monroe's. Also retail recruitment would become an active, but limited, function and the organization will look into hiring a sixth staff member to focus on product and retail.
The organization will be formed by a two-year inter-local agreement that will end in June 2015.
Platé's transition plan is aggressive.
He proposed that a contract be presented at the next county commissioner and city council meetings and the organization would take affect Nov. 5 this year.
Full implementation would take about a year, with a county-wide work plan formed by June 2013.
"It's never good to have a vacuum, so if the decisions is made to move forward with it...(there's) no point in sitting there," Platé said. "The quicker we can get together, the quicker we can start to work out the work plans for the other municipalities."
There are concerns that the new organization would favor Monroe over the rest of the county.
That will not be the case, Platé said.
"That's just not how it woks," he said. "What you do, as a community, is you try to put the best options in front of them that meet their criteria."
He gave the example that if a company wanted to be four miles from the interstate, they would show them Indian Trail or Stallings. Or if a company wanted a rural environment or wants to be near an airport.
"There's different criteria that come around and there's going to be a period of time where there's going to be a lot of education," Platé said. "There's a lot of education, a lot of chess pieces that need to be moved to prepare the communities for what they want."
The city's work plan took a lot of time and effort. Platé said the same thing would occur in other communities.
“I believe that we have a very, very successful organization that will be able to now work throughout the County to bring about the specific development each community desires," Platé said. "It will take a lot of work and education of those communities to get them prepared, as it did in Monroe years ago. I look forward to working with all the communities and their unique assets to generate even more job opportunities for our citizens.”
Board of County Commissioners Chairman Jerry Simpson said the move will save money and create consistency.
"It sends a message to people considering the region that we're all of one voice and we're all working together to create a community where companies can thrive," Simpson said.
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