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Questions remain on economic development

One question was answered on Tuesday, and several remain.

The Brundidge City Council voted Tuesday to increase funding to the Pike County Chamber of Commerce to help support an enhanced economic development effort.

The new level triples Brundidge’s monthly contribution to the chamber and secures its place among the funding partners who have pledged to support an enhanced economic development effort. Those partners include the Cities of Troy, Goshen and Banks, who all previously voted to begin contributing or to significantly increase their contributions to the effort.

The Brundidge Council’s vote also put to rest the question of whether that city would become a partner in the economic development effort. Now, the only funding partner that remains uncommitted is the Pike County Commission, which did not provide any funds to the chamber this year because the county is ­ in the words of commissioners ­ financially strapped.

Commissioners are supposed to review the request again at a June 24 meeting, but members are not optimistic that the commission will be able to find the money to make a contribution.

And that presents another unanswered question: What role with the county play in any enhanced economic development effort?

Of course, other questions remain, as well: What vehicle will we use for economic development? An economic development authority, with separate governance, is a likely alternative and one that several leaders say answers concerns about how the process will work.

Who will lead it? Pike County has a team in place,

and Chamber staff have been working for more than a year to realign their duties to allow the president to focus exclusively on economic development.

And who will follow? That’s the biggest question. Because by follow we really mean "buy into" the process and support it, with time, energy and effort.

Our county is, as one leader said, perched on the edge of growth. Economic development opportunities abound ­ from the Hyundai manufacturing plant coming to Hope Hull to the expansion of existing industries. We need to make certain that we are able to open the door when that opportunity knocks.  

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