“Basically we sent out another advertisement,” said County Manager Chuck Wooten. “Just to make sure we covered the region and to make sure they knew we were advertising.”
The county has been without someone at the helm of its economic policy development for about five years, when the previous director resigned. The economic development commission ceased to exist as well.
But the county has begun to slowly put back together the pieces, officially dissolving the defunct economic development commission last winter and creating a new one in the spring dubbed the Business and Industry Advisory Committee. In July, the county began accepting applications for the director position.
When the window closed in early August, the mix of nearly 20 applicants wasn’t what the county wanted — nearly all were from outside the region — so officials opened it up again.
“We didn’t have many regional applicants in the pool,” Wooten said. “One of the things we’re hoping to not have to spend a lot of time training someone in is what this region has to offer.”
The final pool contains about 25 applicants, a handful from Jackson County and others applying from Florida, Virginia and other parts of the state. This week, the search committee is meeting to begin interviewing finalists.
“There are some good qualified people in there so we’re ready to move forward now,” Wooten said.
The minimum starting salary is set a $51,000 per year, but the actual salary for the director could be a lot higher depending on what he or she can offer. Nonetheless, Wooten hopes the investment pays off for the county in the long run.
By the end of September, Wooten hopes to have the position filled. Once the director is chosen, the advisory committee will start meeting regularly to help develop an economic strategy for the county.
One of the first tasks, he says, will be creating a database of the counties assets, strong points and infrastructure to court potential businesses looking to move in.
“As people are looking at Jackson County, we can show them what we have to offer,” Wooten said.