Carter County Tomorrow would die without county funding, director says

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If a proposal debated by the County Commission Monday to withdraw funding from Carter County Tomorrow becomes a reality, it would mean the end of the agency.

“It would just make it stop and send everyone home,” CCT Director Tom Anderson said.

Currently, the economic development agency gets about one-third of its funding from Carter County. The remainder comes from the City of Elizabethton and the various utilities operating in the county.

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The breakdown comes to about $49,000 contributed annually by the city, about $45,000 annually from the utilities and about $40,000 annually from Carter County, Anderson said. Carter County Tomorrow pays the county about $41,000 per year for rent at the Workforce Development Complex, he added.

If the county does to decide to move away from CCT, Anderson said, they need to have a replacement plan because the county is required by statute to have an industrial development board.

“They need to have the ability to make a transition and not just throw the baby out with the bath water,” Anderson said. “Stopping the funding immediately helps no one.”

Moving forward without a plan would jeopardize any recruitment plans that are in progress and have a lasting negative impact on the county’s development capabilities, Anderson said.

“It would damage a lot of future potential for the county,” he said.

Regarding comments that the agency has not shown a return on the county’s investment by bringing new industry and jobs to the county, Anderson said not all jobs are created by bringing in new businesses. A large part of his job, he said, is working to help existing businesses and industries expand operations already in place in Carter County.

“There are other recruitments going on, but most of the jobs are being created out of existing businesses,” he said, citing growth at Snap-On Tools, NCI Building Systems and Georgia-Pacific.

During the debate on the Commission floor Monday night, Commissioner Ray Lyons said he would like to hear from Anderson regarding the work done by CCT and what progress is being made, suggesting that Anderson be invited to speak to the group during their next meeting.

Speaking to the Commission would be no problem, Anderson said.

“Prior to about a year ago, I attended every meeting,” he said. “I have no problem with that; it is just basically reporting.”

Regarding comments made by commissioners that he did not keep them properly informed of what CCT was working on, Anderson said two commissioners as well as County Mayor Leon Humphrey serve on the board of directors for Carter County Tomorrow. “I report to them monthly,” he said. “I send written reports to the county mayor when requested.”

The agency’s board also held several strategic planning meetings recently, Anderson said. “We met five times and (Humphrey) was not at any of those meetings,” he said. “The city was well represented.”

In his opinion the motion to revoke funding was “based on misinformation” and not having a complete understanding what CCT does and the service it provides the county, Anderson said, adding he understood the fiscal concerns which may have also motivated the idea.

“I understand tax dollars are tight and we have to take a real hard look at them,” he said. “I’m a positive person but I’m also a realist.”

The question of continuing to fund Carter County Tomorrow was referred to the commission’s budget committee for consideration. This opens up the chance for everyone involved to get together to see what needs to be done, Anderson said.

“We need to figure out what is the best thing for the community and have a very frank and candid discussion about expectations,” he said, adding those involved “need to take all politics and personalities out of it.”