Forum: Council's impact on economic development
Henderson’s micropolitan statistical area has unemployment of 12.9 percent, same as the Vance County rate currently 94th of 100 counties.
At a Henderson City Council candidates’ forum Sunday afternoon, all eight candidates were asked about the role of the council in economic development. The topic and jobs were consistently among the most pressing concerns for the city in assessing the 80 statements during the event put on by the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce, WIZS-1450 AM and The Dispatch.
One of the questions asked of the candidates:
“People say that we need more jobs in Henderson and Vance County. The city’s role in economic development has ebbed and flowed in decades past. How aggressive of a role should the city have in economic development today?”
Sixty seconds were allotted for response from each candidate.
Ward 3 candidates got the question first, followed by Ward 4, Ward 1 at-large and Ward 2 at-large.
The following are their full answers, in the order they were given:
• Geraldine Champion, Ward 3 challenger:
“I believe because of the lack of jobs, that the City Council should be a little bit more aggressive. We have to start from somewhere. I think we need to have more around-the-table discussions, not only with economic development with the county and the city, I think we ought to include the citizens of Vance County. We need to also find out who and what would be able to do certain jobs if they were to come here. I think that we need to go out, knock hard, knock long, and try to get more jobs in Vance County before the people that do want to make a fair and easy living — in the past I believed that we just have not come up to par with what we need to do as far as economic development.”
• Garry Daeke, Ward 3 incumbent:
“It’s often difficult to explain to people the city’s role in economic development. We want the jobs. We need jobs. The major function of that is certainly with the county but the city’s role is multiple behind the scenes. We have seats on the Economic Development Commission. What we bring to the table is our water, which is gold in this century and will be in the future, and we are attempting to through the IBT process to expand that plant and double the amount of water we’ll have available. That will help us as we try to grow, especially with new industry. Our sewer plant is ancient. We’re spending $18 million now to rehab and rebuild and renovate a plant that will handle what we need as well as capacity for the future. Those are the two biggest functions of the city. The other piece, and we work with the county in this and it’s always tough when you don’t have money, are incentives. When companies want to come to town, it’s not a fun game. Its what is being done all over the United States. We have to look at those, consider our role within that and how we can work with the county when companies need incentives.”
• Vernon Brown, Ward 4 incumbent:
“We have to bring in a great economic development person that can do some super recruiting. It’s almost like this police search. Everybody is included on this police search. We came out with a lot of criteria about what we’re looking for. We’re looking for somebody that has some extrovert skills that can come to this town and do some remarkable things. That’s the kind of economic development person we need. All the towns around us seem to be growing, especially Franklinton and Granville. We have to be partners with them or partner with Raleigh, or partner with Durham. We just got to get a little bit stronger.”
• Fearldine Simmons, Ward 4 challenger:
“Mr. Brown made a valid point. I think that as a City Council, I think we ought to pool together and study, find out what has worked outside of Henderson. Because certainly there have been other cities who have had challenges just like we have and will have. But if we are open to ideas, and if we have an open mind to search the way we are searching for certain employees, we can do the same thing with our economic development to build, get outside of the box, think out of the box.”
• Sara Coffey, Ward 1 incumbent:
“Economic development for the most part falls on the county because that’s where our economic development comes from. We as a city, and as a City Council, we have to stress with the people that are on our economic development board what we want and what we expect of them and we have to stay firm on that. We need jobs here and we all know we need jobs here. We need people that are going to go out and put that forth. I think one of the major things we need to do here is grow our businesses that are within. If you look at economic development, when someone is coming to your town to even look for something, they look at the businesses and the sustainability that these businesses have had that are already there. If we can farm our businesses, help our businesses that are already here to grow and nurture our businesses here, I believe we will have more economic development coming in.”
• Charles Douglas, Ward 1 at-large challenger:
“I think the City Council should have a very aggressive role. There are many things as elected leaders of the city that we can do. But in order to bring new business to our community and for our children, we have to address some of the other issues that impede progress, such as crime and blight. New businesses aren’t going to come and relocate to our community as long as these issues persist. The city needs to be aggressive and collaborate across agencies to come up with common sense, new, bold initiatives to bring economic development and jobs to our community.”
• Arnold Booth Jr., Ward 2 challenger:
“I think the City Council, we need to be very, very strong with trying to get economic development around here. I spoke with Mr. Donald Matthews last week and for Henderson to have fallen asleep on economic development, it’s time for a change. I need y’all to vote for me because I spoke with Mr. Donald Matthews. Two years ago I wanted to open up a gym, a boxing gym. Boxers get paid a whole lot of money. That money can come back into our town in the tax bracket. But I spoke him the other day about Americal. We’re not going to really get companies to come around here, so what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to create jobs. I spoke with Donald. Let’s call Nike, adidas, Reebok, Puma, let’s turn that hosiery factory into getting socks. But I go door to door campaigning and unfortunately people don’t really want a low-paying job. But we’ve got to start somewhere. All these buildings we’ve got around here, we need to open them up and do something. The City Council can do that.”
• Mike Inscoe, Ward 2 at-large incumbent:
“I think the city should be involved in economic development. The city is primarily the — has the utilities, the water, the sewer. Presently, I am chairman of Kerr Lake Regional Water System. We are permitted to withdraw 10 million gallons of water a day. Our interbasin transfer permit will allow us to withdraw 20 million gallons of water a day, which we are already permitted by the Corps of Engineers. We need to look at industries like pharmaceuticals, meat processing, textiles that use large quantities of water, and also would have to have sewer capacity. In addition to that, we need to look at public-private partnerships. Mr. Daeke touched on incentives. Nobody likes incentives, but I think it’s time we re-evaluate our incentive packages for small businesses, for start-up businesses, and also large industries.”
Contact the writer at email@example.com.