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Haywood redirects economic development funding

Haywood redirects economic development funding

After more than two years of funding an economic development partnership between the Haywood and Asheville chambers of commerce that’s resulted in lots of bites but no actual catches, Haywood County commissioners approved a change in how economic development monies will be spent in the future, in hopes of finally landing “the big one.”

“The difference is that we are using some of the money we had given to the chamber and pulling it back in for site development,” said David Francis, Haywood County project administrator and the county’s go-to guy on economic development. 

The change won’t affect the partnership between the two entities, or the total amount of money spent on economic development in Haywood County, but will affect the operating budget of the Haywood Chamber. 

“Over the past two years, efficiencies have become apparent and the process has been streamlined,” said CeCe Hipps, president of the Haywood Chamber. “It still meets our overall goal, which is to sell the Beaverdam and Jonathan Creek properties.”

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between the commissioners and the chamber, funding of $100,000 a year will be reduced to $50,000 a year, with the balance of that money being used to make sites more development-ready than they currently are. 

“They are beautiful sites, great locations, easily accessible,” said Hipps. “Everyone loves the sites but the problem is, the infrastructure just isn’t there. That’s been the biggest challenge when developers visit.”

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Hipps explained that trunk lines for gas, sewer and water run nearby the sites, but since tapping into them is so expensive, it hasn’t yet been done. Each time a developer expresses interest in the parcels, a time-consuming grant process ensues and construction timetables push that out at least nine months. 

“The bottom line is that prospects don’t want to wait 10 months for infrastructure,” she said. “If they’re ready to make a decision, and ready to start digging, they don’t want to wait.”

The hope is, according to Hipps, that the extra cash will be the tipping point that helps Haywood finally close the deal with a developer on one or both of those parcels. 

“The commissioners have worked very hard with us to incentivize development,” Hipps said. 

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