Town is getting advice

Carrboro hires consulting firm

Staff WriterJanuary 11, 2006 

For $50,000, an economic development consultant will help the town of Carrboro with managing its growth.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to let Regional Technology Strategies advise it on how to reach its goals in managing commercial growth, development and redevelopment.

Aldermen are asking the firm for help in four specific areas: to provide them with the town's current demographics and economic state, to make sure Carrboro's land use regulations are in line with its economic development goals, to help the town "set clear and obtainable goals and objectives," and to assist in developing a specific action plan, which includes timetables and benchmarks.

To compensate Regional Technology for its advice, $15,000 of the payment is coming from the town's General Fund, which consists mainly of revenue from sales and property taxes, said Bing Roenigk, assistant town manager. The rest -- $35,000 -- is coming from Carrboro's Revolving Loan Fund "because of [the fund's] role in economic development," she said.

The Revolving Loan Fund is money the town has set aside to help small businesses get started or expand. As the businesses pay back their low-interest loans, the money goes back into the fund.

Though the board voted unanimously to hire the consultant, Alderman Jacquie Gist had some concerns.

Gist was in favor of another firm -- the Sanford Holshouser Business Development Group -- because of its experience with marketing technological spinoffs of UNC-Chapel Hill; she would like Carrboro to "build on what the university's doing," she said.

Alderman Alex Zaffron assured Gist that, even though Regional Technology doesn't have "that inside connection to the university," that it has experience in research and technology and that the board still has the final say on all actions.

"We're looking for an implementation strategy," Zaffron said. "The policies would have to be made around this table."

In the end, Gist voted to contract with Regional Technology "because I want them to have the confidence of the board, ... but I want noted my comments," she added.

Staff writer Meiling Arounnarath can be reached at 932-2004 or meiling .arounnarath@newsobserver.com.

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