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County to hire economic developer

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted 7-1 in favor of allowing County Administrator Wade Bartlett to hire an economic developer.

Wade Bartlett

Farmville 701 District Supervisor Jim Wilck was the only person to vote against the motion for the hiring. Former Economic Developer Sharon Carney retired in June 2016.

Earlier in the meeting, Bartlett said they’ve not been able to find a candidate until now who brings skills to the county that it doesn’t necessarily have right now.

“Certainly, communications, social media and whatnot — we just don’t do a whole lot of that,” Bartlett said. “Our website doesn’t have Facebook and all of that on there, and a lot of citizens, that’s how they get their information through their phone now — about half of the citizens.”

He stipulated that this position can’t compete with bigger areas like Fairfax, which he said spends roughly $8 million on economic development, or Martinsville and Henry County, which he said spends roughly $1.5 million on economic development.

“So we rely on Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) and Virginia Growth Alliance (VGA), as all rural and small counties do for our leads,” Bartlett said. “So this key position is more about building relationships, going up to VEDP.”

He said meeting people from VEDP and bringing them to the county and letting them see what the county has to offer, in terms of county-owned and private facilities, would be part of the job.

“That’s one of the keys, and that would also relieve me of having to go to a VGA marketing committee for this and that and all,” Bartlett said.

“I’d like to look at that a little deeper, because I don’t see anything from VGA,” Wilck said. “In other words, put your finger on something and say, ‘We got this there,’ I don’t see that. I see money going into it. I see planning and abstract, all that. Nothing to come out of it. How long have we been putting the $23,000 into it?”

Wilck said he’d like to look at combining that $23,000 with the salary for the economic developer position salary in order to seek someone with more experience and qualifications for the position.

“If you’ve got $44,000 plus $23,000, I think you could find somebody that’s decent,” Wilck said.

Bartlett said at this point, it’s too late to back out of VGA for Fiscal Year 2019, which will begin July 1. He said VGA has to have a six-month notice before the county can remove itself from the Virginia Regional Economic Development Team.

Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties and the city of Emporia are members of VGA. Bartlett said Amelia has recently decided to resign from the alliance.

Following the board vote, Wilck said, “I think we’ve just condemned ourselves to mediocrity.”

The economic developer candidate was not named during the meeting.