EDC director Clasby announces retirement

After a career spanning more than 14 years as the executive director of Haywood County’s Economic Development Council, Mark Clasby told EDC board members Nov. 2 that this year would be his last.

Clasby, a highly-respected figure in the profession across the state, plans to retire as of Dec. 31.

“He was and still is a great representative for economic development and the mission of the EDC,” said CeCe Hipps, President of the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce. “He’s done a great job with that and he’s been a great mentor to me.”

Clasby, 72, is an employee of the chamber, which receives $233,000 annually from the county to handle economic development activities.

During his tenure at the EDC, Clasby racked up an impressive list of economic development victories, including luring Walmart to Hazelwood after brownfield cleanup efforts and attracting tenants to the Beaverdam Industrial Park outside Canton.

Earlier this year, he told The Smoky Mountain News that he was most proud of “Buy Haywood,” a program that helped local agricultural producers crack larger markets.

“It’s really been great. I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with a lot of different projects over the years, the livestock market, Sunburst Farms — it’s been rewarding,” Clasby said. “I didn’t do it by myself and I was just part of a team, but it was a pleasure be a participant. It’s been an honor to serve.”

Perhaps Clasby’s biggest victory was helping to steer local economic development efforts from being purely a county endeavor to coming under the auspices of the chamber, which occurred in 2014 after a chamber task force studied economic development models around the state.

Economic development agencies across the region continue to move in that direction — consolidating resources to better compete for businesses that would have regional impact.

Just days before Clasby’s announcement, the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce Board approved a plan to partner with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce for some economic development activities.

The details and scope of that agreement are still being worked out, but will essentially outsource some of the EDC’s development activities to the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, a much larger operation with a seven-employee arm dedicated to economic development alone.

Business retention will continue to be handled locally in both Buncombe and Haywood counties, which likely means a very slight redefinition of duties for Clasby’s successor.

“Yes, finding a replacement for Mark is going to be difficult,” Hipps said, adding that Clasby would help with the transition. “We will meet with the executive committee to determine best way to go about it. That discussion has not been held yet, but we need someone in here as soon as possible.”

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