South Charlotte

Value of local town alliance is questioned

Last spring, Matthews, Mint Hill, Indian Trail and Stallings formed an alliance to work on economic development for the region.

Now some Mint Hill leaders say they aren’t sure they want to remain in the group, formally called the Alliance of South Charlotte Communities.

After much discussion at their most recent board meeting, Mint Hill commissioners reluctantly approved alliance by-laws, which contained several features commissioners said caused them concern.

At that meeting, commissioners also appointed representatives to the alliance’s board of directors: Mint Hill Town Manager Brian Welch, Commissioner Lloyd Austin and citizen representative Tony Long. But some officials said they really don’t need any help with economic development in Mint Hill.

“Personally, I don’t think this group is the answer for economic development,” said Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers. “We already have plans in town for industrial and commercial growth, and a lot of these towns don’t.”

Commissioner Tina Ross, however, said the group would at least give visibility to the economic opportunities in Mint Hill.

“You may have the opportunities here, but you have to take advantage of those opportunities. People don’t know about us, and we can’t just sit around and wait for them to find us,” Ross said.

Mint Hill currently does not have formal economic development plans or an economic development committee.

Commissioners said they were surprised several weeks ago when they learned that AC Controls Co. Inc., an instrumentation and controls equipment distributor and service provider, announced it was leaving Mint Hill.

The company is investing $6.5 million in a new building and equipment in the city of Concord. The Concord City Council approved a grant for the company that will allow it to be reimbursed for 85 percent of the property taxes paid on the new investment over the next three years.

Mint Hill Commissioner Mickey Ellington said he didn’t think membership in the alliance would have helped keep the company in Mint Hill.

Matthews has an Economic Development Advisory Committee that meets on a regular basis, and Matthews Assistant Town Manager Jamie Justice spends part of his time on economic development issues.

Justice said he sees value in the alliance.

“We’re confident that we can come up with cooperative ventures that will benefit all the communities involved, and Matthews will benefit as well,” Justice said.

Stallings has no economic development staff. Town Manager Kevin Woods said Stallings is close to finishing its downtown overlay code and hopes the alliance will help bring viable development.

“I think it’s good policy to look at things from a regional perspective versus a town perspective,” Woods said. “You have to get beyond town boundaries because that’s not how economic development works.

“What develops in one town affects all the towns in the region.”

Indian Trail Town Manager Joe Fivas said he believes the alliance will help market the area better and will bring more jobs to the entire region.

Mint Hill has paid $4,500 for the first year’s dues, which will carry the town through June 2015.

At that time, commissioners say, they will re-evaluate their membership and decide if they want to remain a part of the group.