Early into Monday night's regular commission meeting, Mayor Jeff Tarte presented a certificate of appreciation to long-time active resident and multiple board-serving Gary Knight, who recently announced that he was moving to the Myers Park area in Charlotte. That followed a resolution Tarte read to honor Major David King, who has retired after more than 26 years of service to the Cornelius Police Department. The latter ceremony included the retirement and awarding of King's badge, and the ceremonial selling to King of his service revolver in exchange for one dollar.
That prompted Knight, still seated in the audience to declare, "Mr. Mayor, I would like to point out that tonight you're losing both a King and a Knight."
Later in the meeting, commissioners discussed a draft list of duties and responsibilities for the town's proposed new economic development czar — not a formal title but one used here in an exercise of journalistic license — to serve not only as a liaison between the town and the business community, but also to inventory existing business and available space, to help retain and expand existing businesses, and to recruit new businesses to town.
Town Manager Anthony Roberts convinced commissioners to include a line item of $100,000 in the current fiscal year's budget for the position, suggesting it would most likely cost less, particularly because the job wouldn't be staffed for the entire year. Ensuing conversations between town officials included a more detailed job description and whether it would be more effective to award the job on a contract basis or as a full-time employee.
"It sounds to me like we want this guy out there moving the ball down the field in terms of product development," said Commissioner Dave Gilroy, who has from the start served as something of a devil's advocate against the concept. He and other commissioners have also wrestled with how to measure the success of the position in which responsibilities extend beyond tangible results.
"If you have a ... meeting with this person, you want him to be able say 'this is what I have done,' not just 'this is what I think,'" said Gilroy.
To address such concerns, the economic development coordinator will have short-term and long-term success factors to meet. The first three months would include assessing the town's business climate and opportunities, developing strategies and creating a database of categorized businesses.
Longer-term objectives would include developing a five-year economic development plan, participating in revisions of the town's land use plan and land development code to maximize business opportunities, creating a small business/entrepreneur resource center, forming the Cornelius Economic Development Advisory Council and fostering a positive trend of business recruitment, retention and expansion.
Most of that is difficult to quantify, and Commissioner Lynette Rinker said one of the primary challenges of the position will be to address the perception, warranted or not, that the town makes it difficult for businesses to succeed.
Tarte put it more succinctly. "We want a rainmaker deal maker," he said.
The board approved 4-0, with Commissioner John Bradford absent, to instruct staff to craft a request for performance for the position.