The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday April 11th

Towns seek economic development leaders

Unifying figure a top priority

Though Orange County has lost two employees who worked to aid the local economy, more flexibility for the plans to restructure the economic department could be gained as a result.

The resignation of Brad Broadwell, Orange County’s former economic development officer, came just weeks after Carrboro’s economic officer James Harris announced his retirement.

Because Broadwell announced his resignation, the county is starting an external search for someone with previous experience in economic development, said Orange County Manager Frank Clifton.

Broadwell resigned from his position in order to pursue other opportunities, Clifton said.

“He has a lot of international experience, so maybe that’s where his interest lies,” Clifton said.

Clifton said in the future he hopes to see the non-residential tax-base increase and for the county to work closer with the University.

“Going forward is what we want to concentrate on,” he said.

“Increasing the level of collaboration between the town and county as well as public and private sectors are our important goals.”

Chapel Hill Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett said Broadwell’s resignation has no obvious impact on his work for Chapel Hill.

“I’ve been in Chapel Hill for four years, and the workload and demands of this position have grown increasingly,” Bassett said.

“Chapel Hill and the Town Council have been working strategically to move economic development forward. We would like to see additional development in the county and benefits for residents and taxpayers.”

An economic development officer plays an important role in coordinating interaction between the community and local government, Clifton said.

Economic development officers’ duties include meeting with potential clients and companies who want to locate to the area and facilitating conversations between companies and internal staff.

Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs said county government will hold a work session in February to begin the search for a qualified candidate.

“Our focus will be on what we want in an economic development director, and what kind of instructor will work best for Orange County.”

The commissioners’ goals for economic development involve attracting more “green” businesses and increasing the tax base.

Jacobs said he remains positive that the change in leadership might lead to reflection and improvement within the economic department.

“We were already in a discussion about how to restructure, so (Broadwell’s resignation) gives us the opportunity to,” Jacobs said.

“Not having someone defend a certain way of doing things means it’s easier to change the way we are doing things.”

But the process for selecting a new officer is not yet defined. The economic department must meet with county staff to decide exactly what the process will involve.

“It’s never positive when someone loses their job, or loses a job they like to do,” Jacobs said.

“But anytime you have a change in director, you have an opportunity to examine whatever that department is doing and what to improve.”

Senior writer Christina Taylor contributed reporting.

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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