Explores options beyond current contract
Union County knows it needs more commercial growth. The question is how to go about getting it. Building on a study developed earlier this year by Wingate University, county commissioners agreed to pay up to $20,000 for members of the North Carolina School of Government to give different options for the county to explore next year.
Currently, Union County contracts with the Monroe based Partnership for Progress company to help stimulate economic development. That contract expires in July 2012 and with the company’s director, Maurice Ewing, stepping down next January, the board wanted to look at other ways to possibly spur on commercial growth.
“With our agreement terminating, we need as much information as possible, so we can plan the economic future of Union County,” commissioner Jonathan Thomas said.
Members of the North Carolina School of Government would look at information about the area, research the various communities and determine what type of structure would work best for Union moving forward. That could mean continuing the contract with Partnership for Progress, finding another group to partner with or creating the county’s own economic development department.
(The study) will look at Union County specifics, what are some of our challenges, what are some of our benefits,” county manager Cindy Coto said.
The Wingate University study found that Union County’s current tax status is 84.9 percent residential and 15 percent commercial. Out of counties of similar size and population across the state, that ranks as the third highest amount of residential, next to Harnett’s 87.2 percent and Chatham’s 85.3 percent.
Last fall, the Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study to determine how to balance a good quality of life for Union with the constant growth. What the study found wasn’t surprising, as it states more residential buildings require more services.
That study suggested Union County focus on expanding through six specific industries. That includes advanced materials, aerospace, medical products, building products, e-commerce retail and a data center. Advanced materials was the field highlighted as the one with the most potential. By adding 100 workers in the field, Union would see an influx of $139 million.