Economic development efforts up, along with budget requests

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


The Wilson Economic Development Council is increasing its request for funding from both the city and the county to accommodate increased expenses, including those associated with recruiting new industries to Wilson.

“We’ve had a lot of client expenses in 2017-18,” said Executive Director Jennifer Lantz. “We’ve had far more than we’ve had since the 2000s, so we’re watching the budget carefully to make sure we end up int he black, not in the red.”

In fiscal year 2017-18, the organization had an operating budget of $598,100 with allocations of $299,045 from both the city and the county. The proposed budget increases the city and county allocations to $350,795, but the respective governing bodies have not approved the budget request.

“Normally we go several years without an increase in the budget from the city and county by absorbing the increases in things like insurance and office expenses,” Lantz said during the March board meeting. “But we’re at a point where we can’t absorb any more unless we cut the marketing budget dramatically.”

The request was met with support from board members, such as Tom Cozart.

“There is no question about the return on the dollar for the work Jennifer is doing, so we need to be very aggressive about funding,” Cozart said in March. “If she feels strongly about an investment that would give us a good return, we should consider it.”

From July to December, WEDC staff helped six industrial clients choose Wilson County, creating 616 new jobs and investing $209 million in the Wilson economy. Nearly 2,000 other jobs are expected to be added indirectly from the new industries, authorities said.

To secure such commitments from industries, a lot of time and energy is expended by WEDC staff, who also are in talks with more than 20 other industries still in the process of deciding where to locate. In June 2017, Lantz purchased the Jobs EQ software, which helps staff gather information for site location consultants and executives.

“That database has saved us so much in the last year,” Lantz said in March. “We’re able to fill out questionnaires and labor studies from companies with all that needed information, then submit it quickly and efficiently. That database has been a huge help for us.”

The expense of the database raised the line item from $2,900 in 2017-18 to $11,582.32 in the proposed budget. And Lantz is planning to hire an intern to help along with contract with a consultant as needed, which increased the part-time salaries from $13,000 in 2017-18 to $24,828 and added a budget line of $50,400 for consultants.

The budget also includes $7,400 more for trade shows, client calls and travel. Staff members frequently attend events to promote Wilson, especially among companies in life science and pharmaceuticals, automotive, advanced manufacturing, aerospace and defense.

An expected $14,318 annual increase to rent for the WEDC office in the Walston Center on Nash Street spurred the creation of a subcommittee to investigate whether it would be prudent to move to a new location. Board vice chairman Keith Merrick said the group has narrowed the search down to two locations, which members want to tour. No decision on a location was made at the Tuesday board meeting.

The budget requests from WEDC will be considered along with budgets from each departments this month and integrated into the recommended budget by the city manager and county manager respectively presented to the governing bodies in May.

The public hearing and approval of both government budgets are anticipated in June.