The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners is implementing a vision it hopes will help create a sustainable community while encouraging residents to fulfill their potential locally and buy locally.
The county is taking applications from residents interested in being part of the Cabarrus County Council for a Sustainable Local Economy.
The 13- to 21-member committee will engage existing institutions, small businesses and the community to raise awareness of the importance of supporting local businesses. Members also will help perform research and analysis, develop strategies and make policy recommendations that encourage a sustainable, local economy.
Representation from the entire community, including small-business owners, farmers, educators, health care workers and other concerned citizens, is being sought. Applicants must live or work in Cabarrus County. Appointments are expected to be made in December. Applications are available online.
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"The goal of economic development efforts is a healthy, prosperous and educated community," said Cabarrus County Manager John Day. "To be successful, those efforts must be multi-faceted. We already have very capable recruiters at the Economic Development Corporation and we have a chamber of commerce that serves its members well. We also have a fine education system and great health care facilities.
"What we don't have is a concerted, community-wide effort to create new jobs at local businesses. This missing element, though often overlooked, is in many ways the easiest to address and the surest bet; how do you create new jobs at local businesses? Increase demand."
Michael Shuman, author and director of research and economic development for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, is expected to assist the CSLE for the first year. Among other things, he will help identify "leakage" in the local economy and help determine how much money is spent by local businesses, institutions, governments and residents purchasing goods and services from outside Cabarrus County that are available within the county.
"This locally-focused element of our economic development efforts actually benefits our recruitment program," said Day. "The support of local businesses nurtures entrepreneurs and creativity, helping establish that unique sense of place which has become so important in attracting new businesses."
Grace Mynatt has served as a commissioner for four years and was on the board of education for 14 years. She said she submitted her application to be on the committee partly because her daughter is owner of two GM dealers in Cabarrus County and a Nissan dealership in Salisbury.
"We're local folks who compete in a local area and I think that's what the thrust of this committee is all about," Mynatt said. "I think it's something that is overdue. I would like to see it become a networking possibility for small businesses, or a forum for small businesses to share and address concerns with local government. I hope we'll look at what things are impeding (small businesses) and figure out how we can take those roadblocks away."
Mynatt said she hopes a main focus of the group will be to foster locally-owned businesses.
"It has been shown that a dollar spent at a local business circulates many more times in the community before it leaves," said Mynatt. "And when it's with a national company, it leaves your community very quickly. By spending locally, you're also helping the tax base. It's just a matter of helping your own community in the long run. We need our larger businesses, but we also need to make sure our smaller businesses thrive."