Officials question return on investment for economic group

10:12 am | June 3, 2013

As June 30 draws near and county, city, state, and federal budgets face increasing levels of scrutiny, it’s not uncommon for departments or agencies to fall under the fiscal microscope.

File photoCarter County Tomorrow President Tom Anderson speaks at an August meeting. Some officials have questioned the effectiveness of the economic development task force.

File photo
Carter County Tomorrow President Tom Anderson speaks at an August meeting. Some officials have questioned the effectiveness of the economic development task force.

“That’s part of the American way,” said Tom Anderson, president of Carter County Tomorrow. “When budgets get tight, that’s when accountability comes up.”

As president of Carter County’s joint economic development board, which combines members of city and county government with some of the area’s leaders in industry, Anderson might be more familiar with budget crunches than the average citizen. He is not unfamiliar with the issue of accountability, either.

On Thursday night, members of the county’s Budget Committee began discussing the relevance of CCT, and eventually recommended reducing the county’s portion of the board’s fund from $40,000 to $10,000.

County Mayor Leon Humphrey, who, during the meeting, recommended a countywide budget cut of somewhere between 2 1/2 and 5 percent, commended the commissioners for examining outside agencies, including CCT, to determine if the county’s money was being spent wisely.

“I’m glad they’re looking at these areas,” Humphrey said. “We’ve got to look at all of these outside agencies to see if there’s a return on our investment. For Carter County Tomorrow, to date, we have not seen a significant return on investment, as far as jobs coming into the county.”

But according to County Commissioner and CCT Board Chairman Steve Lowrance, it may be premature to gauge how successful CCT has been in job recruitment.

“People expect results, but they want them now; job creation doesn’t happen overnight,” Lowrance said. “They’re going to have to make some cuts in the budget, but you’ve got to put your priorities in perspective. Cutting funds from economic development is like cutting your nose off to spite your face.”

Even though Thursday’s motion failed to receive enough votes to pass, the county’s Budget Committee is only the most recent body to question the value of CCT. During its Jan. 31 meeting, Elizabethton City Councilman Bob Cable directly asked Anderson to list some of his accomplishments in economic development.

“I asked him not what he’s going to do, but what he had done,” Cable said. “He talked a long time. I don’t want to say it didn’t make any sense, but that’s the way it was.”

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