During Thursday’s City Council meeting, council members voted to approve a memorandum of understanding in support of the creation of an economic development department and a charter provision to allow an administrative assistant for the mayor and council members.
Council Member Bill Bryan said the city will develop a new economic development department that will be under the supervision of City Manager Scott Wood. Bryan said the Main Street program will be part of the department.
“The way this is being developed is by researching other successful programs. Mr. Wood has a lot of economic development connections throughout the state. And we will be seeking input from all Canton residents and particularly businesses,” Bryan said.
Bryan said there is money available in the general fund budget to fund the director’s position. Council Member Glen Cummins said he wants to see the new economic development department help coordinate different efforts going on in the city such as the Downtown Development Authority and Main Street.
“I’m not saying these should all report to economic development, but I think there should be more coordination of the efforts,” he said.
The economic development director needs “Clear objectives,” Cummins said.
“By and large, we’re talking about bringing business to Canton, increasing employment in the city of Canton. We expect this person to entice and bring businesses here, whether it’s downtown or on Riverstone,” he said.
Council Member Bob Rush said having an economic development department could bring more direction to the city’s efforts to attract businesses and growth.
“I think having an economic development director has proven very beneficial for Woodstock as far as pulling things all into one operation,” he said.
The department will need to look at the city as a whole to help the city grow, Rush said.
“We need to put Canton in a place where people want to come here, and for it to grow, we’ve got to look at it in that scope,” he said.
Mayor Gene Hobgood said he hopes the creation of the new department will bring more effort to bringing businesses to Canton.
“We do have quite a bit of effort right now. We’re included with the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, and they work very hard,” he said.
Bryan said anyone with input into the new department should contact a council member or City Hall.
Hobgood read a statement introducing the memorandum of understanding at the City Council meeting. In this statement, he said the mayor will appoint the administrative assistant if approved in the city’s budget and that the process of changing the charter to allow this assistant to be employed shall start no later than Jan. 1.
Bryan said the council is still working out details about the position, but the administrative assistant will serve the mayor and the council as needed.
“This is a very significant compromise on the part of the council to maintain some type of special administrative assistant,” he said.
Cummins said he understood that the charter change will limit the mayor’s hiring ability to one administrative assistant.
Cummins was the sole dissenter in the vote to remove the charter section granting the mayor the power to employ staff.
Cummins said he felt the council’s move to change the charter was “foolish” since the City Council has final say on how many staff members the mayor (or any other department) can employ through budgetary control.
“All we would have to do is institute a budget amendment that we were no longer going to fund it,” he said.