By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — The Economic Development Commission will ask for less money next year from Rowan County towns and cities but boost the level of service, an official says.
“We are requesting $39,000 less from our funding partners than we received last year,” said Robert Van Geons, executive director of RowanWorks Economic Development.
That includes a $34,000 decrease in the EDC’s request of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Several commissioners have stated their intention to cut funding to nonprofit groups, including RowanWorks, by 10 percent.
The smaller budget request would meet that 10-percent figure. Rowan commissioners gave the EDC $338,000 this year.
Including money from all Rowan municipalities, RowanWorks’ budget totaled $430,860 in taxpayer dollars.
The EDC also used $57,000 of its undesignated fund balance, and Van Geons said they will dip into the fund balance again next year.
“We are still at 2004 funding levels, but we have a fund balance and we’ve been using that to market this community,” he said.
RowanWorks will work to raise $25,000 in private funds to offset the loss in revenue from the county and local governments. The Rowan County Tourism Development Authority will provide some money to the EDC for marketing, and the EDC will apply for grants like one from Duke Energy, Van Geons said.
The more they raise, the less they will have to use of the fund balance, which totals $123,000.
In a tough budget year, the EDC wanted to ask the county and municipalities for less but deliver more, Van Geons said.
The EDC is preparing a return-on-investment report to show communities what they get for their money. It will highlight services offered by RowanWorks, including demographic information, economic analysis, grant-writing help, technical services, marketing assistance and a real estate database.
As shown in the EDC’s 10-year economic impact report and a recently completed organizational history, the EDC has reduced county and local tax rates by expanding the tax base, Van Geons said.
Since 1985, the EDC has worked hundreds of projects. Currently, more than 75 companies doing business in Rowan County were directly engaged by the EDC, he said.
This year, he said, those companies will:
• Employ more than 7,300 workers
• Pay taxes equal to 8 cents on the county tax rate
• Provide $2.7 million in municipal tax revenue
The companies also represent $390,000 of funding for fire districts in Rowan County, he said.
RowanWorks staff and members from the EDC Board of Directors will visit each municipality in Rowan County to present the return-on-investment report and offer their services to help town and city officials recruit jobs and market their communities.
“But what we really want is feedback from our stakeholders,” Van Geons said. “We want to be the most effective organization we can for them, but we can’t address concerns we don’t know about.”
At the annual retreat for the Landis town board, for example, aldermen asked Van Geons for more help promoting industrial sites in the town.
He pledged the EDC would deliver. “If we don’t do it, don’t write the check,” Van Geons said.
Who’s interested in Rowan?
Types of industry showing interest in Rowan County:
Auto component manufacturing
Customer service centers
By the numbers
Current EDC activity:
93 new projects (potential industry and jobs)?since January 2010
16 existing projects in 2010
5 new projects since March
109 total projects now being pursued
50 visits to Rowan County from potential employers
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.