Southwest Wake News

Apex might hire economic development director

As town leaders push to bring big businesses to town to shift more of the the tax burden from homeowners, Apex might hire an economic development director for the first time.

The personnel committee of the Apex Town Council recommended spending about $250,000 to hire a director and administrative assistant and another $90,000 in operational costs. The council is expected to take a final vote at its March 18 meeting.

The economic development director would be paid between $70,225 and $110,175 a year. The administrative assistant would be paid $32,248 to $50,515.

Councilman Gene Schulze said he was concerned about accountability and how to measure the success of an economic development director. The staff member would report to Town Manager Bruce Radford.

“At one point we have to ask ourselves, ‘Is it worth the ($250,000)?’ ” Schulze said.

The town would need to add about $75 million to its tax base to generate about $300,000 to cover the expense, Radford said. The additional money would go into the town’s coffers.

If an economic development director can hit that target, maybe in two years, the position would pay for itself, Radford said.

As a bedroom community, about 80 percent of the town’s tax revenue comes from residential development. The rest comes from commercial, offices, and industrial.

More than half of the people who live in Apex commute outside of town for work.

The council is pushing for Apex to become more of a live-work community. Newly appointed mayor Bill Sutton has said he wants to focus on economic development.

Apex has been reluctant over the years to offer financial incentives to attract new businesses. An economic development director could prompt a shift in that thinking.

For years, the town contracted with the Apex Chamber of Commerce to handle economic development, but the deal ended in 2009 when town leaders didn’t think they were getting a good return on investment.

The recession slowed growth, and the council has been reluctant to spend money to hire an economic development director, Radford said.

“Now things are heating up,” he said.

Council members said it was “new territory” for Apex, but they were willing to give it a shot.

“It shows we are serious in a way that we have never demonstrated before,” said Councilman Scott Lassiter. “After this, if Apex stays 80/20 (residential-to-commercial ratio), we can all look at each other and say we’ve done everything we can do.”