May 292013
 

reflector

By Abbie Bennett

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A city committee met privately on Tuesday with outside officials to discuss a request from a potential developer, one apparently interested in the city’s investment grant program.

The meeting of the City Council Economic Development Committee, held in closed session at City Hall, continues a recent spate of local development activity in the city. The session arose from a request from what city Economic Development Officer Carl Rees called a “local developer.”

Also attending Tuesday’s meeting was Michael Lemanski, director of the Development Finance Initiative at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government, who served as a consultant at the meeting.

“We have received a request from a local developer related to our capital investment grant program,” Rees said. “After talking to the city’s executive management, we thought it would be prudent to bring the Institute of Government in, DFI specifically, to help us go through and sort through that particular request and then offer us any advice they might have on our response on the request.”

After introductions, the committee moved to go into closed session to discuss the request.

“This would be to discuss matters relating to location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the Greenville City Council,” Rees said.

Rees said he could not reveal any more details about the developer other than the request for a capital investment grant.

Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas said there are a “number of projects” coming down the line based on recent collaborative efforts in the city and county. Tuesday’s meeting was about specific details on some of those projects that will be released later, he said.

In recent weeks, two major announcements have promised to change the face of downtown Greenville, one a student housing complex under construction by local developers Tom Taft and Jim Ward; and an East Fifth Street renovation project involving several downtown buildings proposed by CommunitySmith, a Raleigh developer.

All this activity comes amid recent City of Greenville and Greenville-Pitt Chamber of Commerce economic assessments that have pointed to strengths and weaknesses in the area’s ongoing efforts to attract new business and industry. The assessments said that in order to leap frog its competitors, Greenville has to be “transformational” and take advantage of its assets, instead of merely keeping pace.

For Thomas, the assessments have presented more opportunities for collaboration.

“Until a year ago, there was no professional economic development component to the City of Greenville,” Thomas said. “We’re taking a much more collaborative approach now. This is a very important focus for the chamber of commerce, the city and also the county. We felt Greenville needed to be much less passive in economic development … Over the past year we’ve been working very diligently to create opportunities for the community.”

The assessments have given city staff a starting line, Thomas said.

“What this gives us is an up-to-the-minute snapshot of how we compare and what our strengths and weaknesses may be,” he said. “The next big step will be a process of synthesizing those different analyses into a cohesive plan for the city and the county.”

“But the backbone of the 2013 economy are startup companies, which are often the spin-offs of the university environment,” Thomas said. “It’s about retention and expansion because the small businesses have a proven track record. We need to go to them and say: ‘How can we help you innovate and expand and put more people to work in quality jobs?’”

The next scheduled meeting for the economic development committee is on June 25.

“We’ll talk a little bit about where we plan to head,” Rees said. “Most everything we do will be coming out of recommendations from the assessments.”

Contact Abbie Bennett at abennett@reflector.com or 252-329-9579.

via The Daily Reflector.

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