Wendell committee divided on investment plan

jwhitfield@newsobserver.comJuly 22, 2013 

— Members of an economic development advisory panel expressed support for a plan to create an investment group that could spur economic development, but they questioned what role the town-appointed panel should take.

Most of the committee’s 90-minute meeting Wednesday night centered around the concept of establishing a group of investors who would contribute to a fund that would be used to purchase buildings or land and resell them to companies interested in locating in Wendell.

Committee member Paul White suggested the idea as a way to accomplish several goals including spurring economic growth and bringing residents together in a common purpose.

White’s proposal called for recruiting 100 long-term investors who would put $100 per month into the fund. At that rate, the fund would accumulate $120,000 per year. After a period of time, say five years, the fund would grow large enough to purchase larger tracts of lands or buildings that would then be sold at a profit.

“I see this as a tool this committee could use in its economic development efforts,” White said, explaining that the town committee could work with the investment group to locate properties to buy and sell or help the investment group find buyers for those properties.

Town attorney Jim Cauley, who was present at the meeting, said the investment group could not be operated by the town and public funds could not be used to invest in the program.

But he said creating the group was allowable under law. And, he said members of the advisory committee, town staff and elected leaders could choose to participate in the effort on their own.

But White’s proposal drew questions from other members of the panel.

The panel’s role

Donald Brown said he liked the idea, but he didn’t see a role for the economic development committee.

“I don’t think our group needs to be the nucleus of this. I don’t see where this group gets so involved it can’t work on other options,” Brown told White.

Brown suggested that White could establish the group on his own.

White said has worked on similar, but smaller, partnerships in the past.

But he also said he didn’t want to take on the role of organizing a group that large by himself.

Committee member Barry Perry asked White if he had a list of potential investors. White said he had a list 57 names long that he had put together with Guy Brashear, one of his investment partners.

Other members of the committee, including Perry and Planning Director Zunilda Rodriguez said the would be interested in participating in the partnership.

“This is the kind of thing that could make us a player instead of a bystander,” Perry said.

Other questions linger

Other committee members said they still had questions about how the group would be organized, how investment decisions would be made and how people would get out of the investment group if they could no longer continue.

Committee member Ed Morrell said he thought the idea could work for long-term investors, but he said there remain a lot of questions to be answered.

“The more people you get involved in something like this, the more complicated it gets,” Morrell said.

But White said he was only proposing an idea that he thought would give the committee a vehicle to spur growth.

Committee members ended their conversation without coming to any agreements on how to proceed with the idea, but White sounded dismayed by those who he said were opposed to the idea.

“Ed, you and I have been on several of these committees before and most of them meet for a year or two and don’t accomplish anything. I’m trying to put an idea out there that will get us moving forward. Otherwise we’re just going to meet, meet, meet,” White said.

Brown said he wasn’t opposed to the idea, but simply to any plan that would require the economic development committee to create and maintain the investment group.

“I never said I was against this. I just don’t think it’s something this committee should take on,” Brown said.

Whitfield: 919-829-4823

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