At the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance’s (GCEDA) Thursday, Jan. 25 meeting, the alliance did something nearly unheard of for ongoing entities funded by local governments: It announced that the organization is seeking no money this year from the three governments that fund it – Guilford County and the cities of Greensboro and High Point.
In November 2015, GCEDA was formed at a massive joint meeting of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the Greensboro City Council and the High Point City Council, with each of those local governments pledging $100,000 annually to fund the new group charged with unifying economic development efforts across Guilford County and tasked with bringing new business to the county and helping to grow existing ones. Each year, that $300,000 total pays for GCEDA staff support, consultants, supplies and materials, marketing campaigns, social media tools and trips to recruitment events and conventions.
At the Jan. 25 meeting, held at GTCC’s Cameron Campus in Colfax, Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen said, when he presented the proposed 2018 budget to his fellow GCEDA members, that this year the alliance wouldn’t seek any funds from Greensboro, High Point or Guilford County.
He said GCEDA now had a balance large enough to completely cover the planned expenses in the 2018 budget. Christensen and High Point Economic Development Corp. President Loren Hill, the two men jointly responsible for presenting a budget to GCEDA, said they had discussed the upcoming year and determined the group wouldn’t need funding this year from the county or the cities.
“The total expenses there are almost $242,000,” Christensen said of the budget he presented on Jan. 25, to the GCEDA Leadership Group – the ruling board made up of elected officials, government administrators and economic development leaders who vote on the budget and make all other major decisions for GCEDA.
“We have more than enough in the bank to cover that right now,” Christensen said. “What Loren and I talked about is, we don’t anticipate needing the cities’ or county’s investment in GCEDA this fiscal year.”
When Christensen made the announcement, Hill jumped in to make sure the elected leaders and others in the room knew they were hearing that right – given the extraordinary nature of the absence of a request for money.
“Please say that again,” Hill said to Christensen, “because they’ve probably never heard that said in the history of the three governments.”
That got a laugh from Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing, High Point City Manager Greg Demko and Greensboro City Manager Jim Westmoreland – who probably really hadn’t ever heard that type of non-request. It is a truism of area local governments, as well as governments across the nation, that once an ongoing organization is funded annually by the government, that organization continues to ask for money each and every year the group is in operation.
Christensen and Hill said they did anticipate GCEDA would need the funding from the three local governments for the 2019 budget, but GCEDA’s bank balance was high enough for now that GCEDA could take a one-year hiatus from making a request.
GCEDA operates on a calendar year while all three supporting governments operate on a fiscal year and the three partnering governments allocated GCEDA money for the alliance’s 2018 year. Normally, in late January or early February, Guilford County, Greensboro and High Point would cut those checks but now they won’t need to, so each of those three governments now has $100,000 they allocated in their 2017-2018 budget that they don’t need to pay.
“You will not get a bill,” Christensen said of this year.
He added later, “We’re not in this just to spend money because money is available,” and he said the group always aimed to use the money it gets in “a prudent and wise fashion.”
GCEDA’s 2018 budget calls for total expenditures this calendar year of $241,250. The group’s current bank balance is $275,000, which has accumulated from unspent funds from previous years.
The 2018 GCEDA budget adopted unanimously at the Jan. 25 meeting allocates $30,000 for travel to meet with consultants and represent Guilford County and its two largest cities in trade shows, and it includes about $80,000 to fund a coming marketing campaign meant to raise the profile of Guilford County in economic development circles.
“We think we may need to do some outside PR agency work to kind of get our name out there in the coming year,” Christensen said. “We ballpark that at about $80,000 at this point, but don’t hold us to that.”
The newly adopted budget also includes funds for licensing fees for professional databases, computer services, direct mail campaigns, promotional videos and trade show booths and related materials.
The salaries of the alliance members are paid by their respective employers. For instance, Christensen is paid by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and Jim Westmoreland is paid by the City of Greensboro.
If GCEDA sticks to the projected budget in 2018, it will have $33,750 left over at the end of 2018.