Indian Trail, Matthews, Mint Hill and Stallings officials met recently to explore a potential collaboration to boost economic development in south Mecklenburg and Union counties.
The goal would be to recruit and retain businesses and jobs in the area.
“In a recession, you need economic development more than ever,” said Annette Privette Keller, spokeswoman for the town of Matthews. “We’re all in the same situation, and if we could combine our resources, we could be a stronger, better team than individually.”
The four towns, though varying slightly in size, have similar demographics as far as median income, size of household and ratio of residential to commercial.
Geographically, the towns are linked by the outerbelt and the county line. Matthews and Mint Hill are in southeast Mecklenburg, while Stallings and Indian Trail are in western Union.
Indian Trail Manager Joe Fivas said all the towns tax bases are made up of about 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial.
But ideally, you’d have more commercial and about 65 percent to 70 percent residential, he said.
Brian Williams, town manager of Stallings, said the potential for the Monroe Connector Bypass also was an added incentive to pursue collaboration because all of the towns stand to lose business along U.S. 74., if the new road is built.
The town boards and four town managers met recently to hear a presentation how three north Mecklenburg towns – Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville – formed an economic development committee and jointly brought an industrial park to the area.
“We sort of borrowed from their experience and said, ‘If it works there, maybe it can work here,’ ” Fivas said.
The four managers and one board member from each town will meet soon to discuss how to select a committee to explore how the joint effort could be developed.
“I’ve been with the town for 11 years, and in 11 years we’ve done nothing really to try and recruit economic development,” Williams said. “We’ve basically just said, ‘We’re here. Just come.’ And in 11 years, very (few) have.
“I’d rather not compete with the three other jurisdictions. I’d rather us share because 100 percent of nothing is still nothing.”
Fivas says the first step will be just getting to know each other, making sure their goals are aligned to see if collaboration is possible. They’ll have to build relationships and trust before drafting any documents or entering into a collaborative partnership, he said.
“I’d hate for us to go on our separate ways,” Williams said. “I don’t think that’s worked very well in the past...so I think success is combining our efforts, however that is.”