This is the second in a series of posts to illustrate different ways that counties in NC organize to carry out economic development activities (introduction to the series here). Each post will profile a different county’s economic development entity, including its structure, funding, staffing and reporting requirements. Pros and cons of each organizational structure will be discussed along the way.
Located west of Charlotte, Gaston County is the third most populated county in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area (2010 population of 206,086). The county includes 14 incorporated municipalities, including Gastonia, the county seat. According to the State Treasurer’s Office, the County’s annual budget was approximately $276 million in 2010.
In Gaston County, economic development is carried out through a hybrid-type organization, the Gaston County Economic Development Commission (GCEDC). Technically, GCEDC is a department of the county government. The director of GCEDC, referred to as its executive director, reports primarily to the county manager. The oversight and governance of the organization, however, is provided by a public and private sector advisory board in close partnership with the Chamber of Commerce. Annual funding for the GCEDC includes approximately $1.1 million from the county and $100,000 from private sources.
The GCEDC eleven-member advisory board is made up of eight county appointees and three Chamber of Commerce appointees. Public-sector appointees from the county represent different municipalities and private-sector appointees represent the newspaper, retail, manufacturing, and banking sectors. Board members serve four-year staggered terms.
GCEDC is staffed by seven full time employees. The GCEDC and county officials establish two-year strategic plans. Progress updates are provided on a monthly basis to the advisory board and annually to the Assistant County Manager (for budgeting purposes). In terms of activities, GCEDC has successfully developed several industrial parks and typically operates with a capital budget of $2-4 million, although this figure was down significantly in 2010.
The GCEDC executive director believes “that the GCEDC is doing an excellent job at satisfying the diverse interests of Gaston County’s people. The eastern side of the county has grown much faster than the western side, and this has been difficult to manage. The organization has invested heavily in infrastructure and industrial sites, and has been praised for its product preparation, which has made it very easy to attract new businesses.”
Additional case studies and lessons learned to come…