The president of a regional economic development group isn’t pleased that Anson County leaders have decided to leave the organization – a move that ends the county’s $7,000 annual payments.
Ronnie Bryant, president and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, sent a letter to Anna Baucom, chairwoman of the Anson County Board of Commissioners, expressing disappointment that they will no longer invest in the group.
Sixteen counties – from Alexander in the north to Lancaster, S.C., in the south – are members of the partnership, which promotes business opportunities within the region.
In his letter, dated Tuesday, Bryant wrote that Anson’s leadership hadn’t responded to the partnership whenever presented with business leads.
“In fact, your previous economic developer was so concerned by the lack of cooperation that clients experienced when we took them to visit, that I was invited to Anson to discuss the importance of being more welcoming,” Bryant wrote in the letter, which was copied to all the commissioners.
“… It seems that Anson is conflicted about what it wants its future to look like.”
Amid county budget discussions this month, the Anson Economic Development Corp. voted unanimously to leave the partnership, according to a report in the Anson Record newspaper. County Manager Lawrence Gatewood said the county wasn’t getting much out of its $7,000 annual partnership, the Anson Record reported.
Economic development corporation member Fred Sparger told the Observer the move was based on timing.
“We hadn’t seen any results. I’m not saying that’s the fault of the partnership,” said Sparger, retired vice president of South Piedmont Community College.
“A lot of it is the county itself. We have no product for sale, so to speak. The workforce is not skilled. There’s a high level of adult illiteracy. There’s a high level of poverty. I’m not sure we’re positioned for economic development at this time.”
The unemployment rate in Anson, a rural county about 55 miles southeast of Charlotte, stood at 11.7 percent in May, higher than the statewide rate of 9.4 percent. Sparger said the county has been in the partnership for several years.
Attempts to reach commissioners and Bryant on Friday were unsuccessful.
In his letter, Bryant said the county “has completely shifted gears” from the commitment conveyed in 2007, when it hired an outside group to study Anson and create a plan for growth.
That study cited upgrades to Anson County Airport and the future Monroe Bypass as business strengths. Weaknesses included leaders’ hesitancy to pursue zoning regulations that encourage development.