“My view has to be one of optimism,” Rich Price said during a March 3 joint meeting of officials from throughout the county. “I have to be the biggest advocate and cheerleader.”
Price — who hails from a marketing background — was hired last year to focus on Jackson’s economic development efforts. He stressed the importance of educating the outside world about the opportunities within Jackson County.
“We’ve got to get our name out there,” Price said. “We’ve got to fish.”
So far, he has been meeting with members of the local political, business and education communities in an effort to nail down the area’s needs, concerns and opportunities.
“The good thing about Rich is that he didn’t bring any preconceived notions about the things he can’t do,” noted Jack Debnam, chairman of the Jackson County Commissioners. “He thinks he can do anything and that’s what we want.”
Price discussed some current initiatives, such as the newly formed Business and Industry Advisory Committee, repurposing the Drexel industrial site as a recreation or agricultural enterprise — “We feel like that’s got a lot of legs” — and working with the Tuckasegee Water and Sewer Authority to identify short- and long-range expansion and upgrade projects. He also told officials that Jackson County would be well served to work in tandem with other communities in the region to better their economic development chances.
“Collectively, as a region, we become much more attractive,” he said.
Price also suggested that all available commercial properties be combined into a central database so that prospective businesses eyeing the area can more easily survey the possibilities.
“When we get inquiries, and we will get them, no one has to go to a dead end,” the director said.
Jackson’s new economic development director’s presentation generated scant comment from the county’s collection of officials.
“Aw, c’mon,” Price joked, “Don’t make it this easy on me. I’ve been preparing for darts all day long.”