Haywood County has changed the way it handles economic development, with the commissioners voting last week to amend its contract with the Greater Haywood Chamber of Commerce.
In 2018, the commissioners signed a three-year contract with the Chamber to provide economic development services. Of the $233,000 annual contract, $100,000 was to be given to the Asheville Area of Chamber of Commerce to market and promote Haywood County sites as part of its portfolio when courting new businesses.
The Haywood Chamber retained the remainder to hire staff, prepare marketing materials and work alongside the Asheville group to entice businesses to relocate in the county.
Chamber president CeCe Hipps said the discussions began early this year to alter the arrangement, setting aside a larger chunk of money to work on site development as opposed to marketing.
At their meeting last week, the county commissioners approved a three-year consulting contract for $100,000 annually with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to continue the economic development work started in 2018.
In addition, the board approved a memorandum of understanding with the Haywood Chamber to provide $50,000 annually to assist the Asheville/Buncombe Chamber with economic development activities; work on legislative goals, host economic development, broadband and other meetings as needed; market the area to bring new businesses in and work with existing businesses on expansion and retention and provide small business support.
Of the amount, $26,000 is set aside for wages, another $11,000 is to contract with a firm to provide research and analytics; $6,000 is for events and programs, while $7,000 is for advertising, rent and travel.
Hipps said much of the original marketing work had been completed and it was time to re-examine the needs going forward.
“Nothing really changes. We’re still a team,” Hipps said of the joint efforts between the Haywood and Asheville chambers. “This streamlined things a little bit with the county directly contracting with Asheville, but basically it means more money can go toward infrastructure.”
County Manager Bryant Morehead agreed.
“The Chamber had revamped the website and the marketing packages, so that work was done,” Morehead said. “Now that the Jonathan Creek site is ready, we need to turn to the Beaverdam site that has been there for years. Some of the things hurting us is the road isn’t finished, and there’s no water, sewer or gas. Potential buyers are hesitant to invest in a site that isn’t shovel-ready, so funds saved from reworking the chamber arrangements can now be used on that, he added.
The team approach between the chambers has worked well, landing $2.3 billion in investments and 17,000 jobs for the region, meeting documents stated.
While none of the investment was directly in Haywood County, in two and a half years, the county has had 27 site visits and been a finalist in three projects.
In 2019, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce received national recognition for its innovative programs, including the partnership with the Haywood Chamber and the regional approach to economic development it fostered.