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Candidates: EDC has adequate resources to pursue retail

Thursday, October 3, 2013

By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -

(Editor’s note: This article is part of a continuing series on candidates’ thoughts on local issues in the days leading up to the Nov. 5 Henry County Board of Supervisors election.)

The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. has the resources to pursue retail growth, which benefits the economy by providing jobs and attracting shoppers, according to candidates running for the Henry County Board of Supervisors in the Nov. 5 election.

“To a person that doesn’t have a job, it doesn’t really matter what segment” hires them, whether it is retail, industrial or supportive, said Blackberry District Supervisor Jim Adams, who is running unopposed for a fourth term on the board.

“Most secondary jobs would come from a secondary industry” such as retail, and “I think it’s important to grow all sectors” of business, Adams said. “Certainly, retail offers employment to people that otherwise may not fit into an industrial environment and vice versa. Industries offer employment to people who may not fit into a retail environment.”

When updating the supervisors last week, EDC President/CEO Mark Heath said his staff is working with a retail consultant to create a comprehensive retail data package that will include a variety of information, including a target market profile of residents, visitors and employees, statistical retail demand analysis and business development. Recognizing some recent successful retail efforts (such as the openings of a Bojangles in Ridgeway and discount stores in other areas), Heath also said the EDC staff is working to recruit other retail businesses to the area.

That didn’t sit well with some people, according to incumbent Iriswood District Supervisor Milton Kendall. He said he was asked about the retail effort and whether it is something the EDC should work to grow.

The short answer is “yes, I think the EDC should concentrate on it because it draws people in the area to shop, and it means jobs, too. Maybe not as many (jobs as an industry), but it certainly means jobs,” Kendall said.

He said he goes to Danville on occasion to eat in restaurants there, and thinks others do as well. While there, Kendall said, he may shop in some stores, buy gas or otherwise spend money that helps that community.

“I think retail is definitely something we need, and I know the EDC concentrates on manufacturing” jobs, recruiting “bigger operations for the shell buildings and industrial parks, but the supervisors asked Mark Heath and the EDC to look into” growing the retail sector because “it draws more people to the area,” Kendall said.

Pat Favero, who is challenging Kendall, said he believes that although the EDC should covet retail businesses, that effort should not come at the expense of bringing in industry.

“I think they should devote some resources to targeting retail,” he said, but “if they grow (the) economy as a whole, retail would follow.”

One thing that would help the public assess what the EDC is doing would be for the group to provide more transparency in its recruitment efforts, Favero said, “to see exactly what they are working on” and to ensure “there is some accountability” with the public.

“It’s hard for me in the general public to know what EDC is doing,” he said. “I hear different things from different people” about what the EDC is working on.

Favero added that he realizes that companies often request that their identities remain confidential until an announcement is made.

“I think we should respect their privacy, but we can do that in a manner to” allow the public “to know who is looking at coming to the area,” he said.

Incumbent Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant said he thinks the EDC “can handle both (recruiting industry and retail businesses). I do agree that manufacturing should come first, but by the same token, the EDC has enough resources to go out and recruit retail as well.”

Bryant said retail also means job creation.

“To me, a job is a job. We are focusing on the manufacturing side and trying very, very hard” to grow that sector of the economy, Bryant said. “But at the same time, I know that we have enough resources to do the retail side as well and if it’s not hindering us on the manufacturing side, why not” work to recruit retail, he asked.

Randy Scott, who is challenging Bryant for the Collinsville seat, did not return a call and an email seeking a comment.

 

 
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