Commissioners discuss agriculture, approve economic development contract

ALBEMARLE — The Stanly County Board of Commissioners met last Tuesday night after the Labor Day holiday moved their regular Monday night meeting.

The board began their meeting by recognizing the retirement of facilities management employee Glenn Misenheimer, who had worked for Stanly County since 1987. The board presented Misenheimer with a plaque.

The board heard from local agriculture extension agent Samantha Foster on the state of agriculture in Stanly County. Foster said that Stanly county farms are diversified and produce livestock, poultry and commodity crops, including corn, soy beans and cotton. Grapes and Christmas trees are also a part of Stanly County’s agriculture economy. She added that the local cotton gin, livestock market and farm equipment dealers were an integrated part of the farming economy.

Foster also noted that Stanly County farmers buy fuel, labor and office supplies along with feed, seed and chemicals locally. The county’s extension office made more than 39,000 individual contacts in support of the county’s leading industry according to Foster.

The board focused their attention on a new economic development project presented by County Manager Andy Lucas.

“The EDC is currently coordinating with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina on a potential — what I would refer to as a transformative — project named Project Blue Sky,” said Lucas.

Lucas recommended that due to the potential size of the project that the commissioners should engage an outside firm to help coordinate the state and local grants for the project. Lucas said that the project was so large that the entire staff of the economic development commission would be required to manage it.

The EDC issued a request for proposals in August and received three responses. The RFP limited the county’s expenses to $125,000. Lucas said he would also hope to later hire a lobbyist to help the county with Project Blue Sky as the county would need the General Assembly’s help to land the project. The project is anticipated to include “several hundred million” in investment, according to Lucas.

The board approved the request unanimously.

“I am very pleased with the leads coming out of our economic development office. They are working hard to bring more development to the county,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Joseph Burleson. “Andy Lucas is doing a great job as the interim director while we look to fill that position.” Former director Michael Smith left the role to accept a similar position in another county on Aug. 30.

The board will next meet on Monday, Oct. 1.