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News Jenkins breathes new life into EDC efforts

BalsamWest FiberNet is one asset Tommy Jenkins has indicated he plans to utilize to attract and retain businesses throughout the county in his new role as the county’s Economic Development Director. Graphic provided by Macon County EDCSince the resignation of former Economic Development Director Trevor Dalton last September, Macon County has actively pursued a viable replacement. The county’s Economic Development Commission subsequently hired Tommy Jenkins, a Macon County native, on Nov. 1 to help in their efforts to attract and retain businesses throughout the county.

This position is particularly important considering the high rate of unemployment throughout Western North Carolina, with Macon County’s unemployment rate still hovering at 10 percent.

“It’s a great hire,” said chairman of Macon County’s Economic Development Commission, Ed Shatley. “We are very excited to have Tommy on our team. His contacts and knowledge of economic development will provide us with what we need to move forward. He has an extensive list of contacts and experience that will help us expand our resources and enhance our business community,” said Shatley.

Jenkins has a solid background in economic development, and was the chairman of the AdvantageWest Economic Development group for several years. Jenkins also served in the North Carolina House of Representatives and the North Carolina State Senate, and has been in the real estate business for more than three decades.

Jenkins was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1992, serving one term. He represented Western North Carolina in the state Senate from 1997- 1998. He served on Southwestern Community College’s Board of Trustees from 1995-97, and was Chairman of Advantage West from 2007-2011. Jenkins currently serves on the Macon County Airport Authority. Jenkins served on North Carolina’s Partnership for Economic Development Board from 2007-2011, which included a stint as treasurer of the organization for two years from 2009- 2011.

In addition to his work as a real-estate broker, Jenkins was the past president of Franklin’s Board of Realtors. Jenkins’ stellar resume will bring a lot to the table for Macon County. His vast experience in a number of fields should enable the Economic Development Commission to promote Macon County in a positive way.

Jenkins’ goals are expansive. He says he will work to retain and expand existing businesses, recruit investment, focus on workforce development initiatives to better prepare Maconians for the 21st century, and tap into Macon County’s entrepreneurial market. “The majority of businesses, especially in today’s market, are small businesses,” said Economic Development Director Tommy Jenkins. “It’s a tough time for a lot of people in today’s economy, but I think Macon County has a lot to offer in terms of entrepreneurial synergy,” he said.

Jenkins has already met with a diverse number of stakeholders in an attempt to attract investors and resources to the area. “I’m just trying to get my feet on the ground right now,” he said.

Macon County signed a contract with New South Strategies, LLC on Nov. 1, 2011. County Manager Jack Horton stated that Jenkins got off to a quick start, immediately meeting with President and CEO of AdvantageWest, Scott Hamilton, to discuss how the organization could collaborate with the county going forward.

“Right now he is just working on some of our pending projects, as well as trying to revamp his contacts to benefit Macon County,” said Shatley. “We’re trying to work on getting some businesses to come into the existing Walmart store, and we hope we can come up with something to make sure those lots are productive for Macon County,” said Shatley.

The details of Jenkins’ contract ensures that he will be working directly with Macon County as the Economic Development Director until June 30, 2012. The contract states that the two parties may agree to extend the contract at the beginning of the next fiscal year. Macon County did not sign a contract with Tommy Jenkins directly, but contracted out to New South, LLC, an independent firm that Jenkins manages. Jenkins is the only employee at New South, LLC.

As a result, the county does not have to withhold any sums for income tax, unemployment insurance, Social Security, or other withholding requirements as determined by the law, nor does the county have to provide benefits or workers compensation coverage to New South. Jenkins will be paid $5,000 per month, including a $100 allowance for cellular telephone and data expenses. County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the contract at their last meeting, on Nov. 8. The county will also reimburse New South, LLC for traveling cost, meals, lodging, and other expenses pertaining to Jenkins’ role as Economic Development Director.

The contract mandates for Jenkins to report monthly to the Macon County Economic Development Commission, County Manager Jack Horton, and the Board of Commissioners regarding specific economic development and recruitment projects as requested. Moreover, New South, LLC will adhere to North Carolina’s Public Records Laws, as well as abide by the Economic Development laws on North Carolina’s books.

Jenkins must also attend Western North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission meetings, the North Carolina Economic Development Association meetings, as well as other meetings and conferences that are related to economic development issues in Macon County.

The contract between New South, LLC and Macon County is fairly elaborate, detailing many bullet points for Jenkins to follow through with, including providing leadership, administrative and professional work in the implementation of economic development strategies, programs and services for Macon County.

“I think public service is important and I want to help make Macon County the best place it can be,” he said. “Our broad mission is to maintain our businesses, spur investment and job creation. I think if you look at our infrastructure, on top of the software industries we already have, it puts us in a good position, despite the current market,” said Jenkins.

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