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Cabarrus Businesses Protest Funding Cuts To County Economic Development Corporation

http://66.225.205.104/JR20100920.mp3

The Cabarrus County Commission is in a tense stand-off with the county's Economic Development Corporation over budget cuts. Tonight several dozen local business leaders will wade into the fight, pleading for county officials to restore economic development funding. The Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation, or EDC, says it's attracted at least $400 million in capital investment and more than 2,000 jobs to the county in the last seven years. But Cabarrus County Commission Chairman Jay White doesn't buy it. "A lot of these projects, they come from other sources and the credit is being taken by the EDC," says White. Nor is he convinced the county is getting its money's worth from the $400,000 it typically gives the EDC each year. County money makes up more than half of the EDC's budget. The rest comes from town governments and local businesses - but neither of those groups has trimmed its contribution to the EDC. So about 60 local business leaders are demanding the county commission reconsider its decision to cut the EDC's funding by 50 percent. They include Doug Stafford who develops and manages hotels with his firm Griffin Stafford Hospitality. "We need to be doing everything we can with 10.8 percent unemployment to bring companies here that can create jobs for the people who live in our county," says Stafford. Commissioner Jay White doesn't argue with that, but says the EDC staff is not responsive enough in providing accurate reports to the county commission. And, White questions the EDC's need for more money when it's sitting on a $300,000 reserve fund. "And I'm wondering why aren't they using taxpayers' money before they're asking for more taxpayers' money?" asks White. Cabarrus EDC Director John Cox says the fund balance is for the last-minute incentives it takes to close a corporate relocation deal, similar to the extras a homebuyer might negotiate at closing. "If incredible opportunities come up, we have to have some resources at our disposal to bid on those projects," says Cox. And he says the EDC has provided all reports requested by the County. Tonight the Cabarrus County Commission will hear from local business leaders in support of restoring at least part of the EDC's funding. UPDATE: The Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation - or EDC - had a portion of its funding restored by the Cabarrus County Commission last night, but still faces a $150,000 cut. The original budget reduction was about $200,000, based in part on concerns the EDC is not meeting the county's expectations. But EDC officials and dozens of local business leaders intervened, arguing the county's 10.4 percent unemployment rate merits more investment in economic development, not less. The Cabarrus EDC relies on the county for half of its overall budget and claims to have created 2,000 new jobs for the region since 2003. County Commission Chairman Jay White says the EDC doesn't deserve credit for many of those jobs.