Opinion: A cheap fix

by Elissa Yount

The county is up to their old tricks of trying to get the City Council to commit city tax revenue to our county for economic development.

The city taxpayer already pays for economic development at the same rate as a county taxpayer, but Jerry Ayscue thinks the city taxpayer ought to pay more. He does not tell us why, just that we should, because it would help the county out.

The Henderson taxpayer is stretched enough as it is. So, other than flushing more money down the deep hole of this problem, what can the city do to help in recruitment?

Correcting our sewer problems and capitalizing on our plentiful water would be a good start, but there is a third thing that we can do that is crucial and not expensive. Very simply, it is to project the face of a reliable, engaged, progressive city. The first impression of a city is usually formed from our web site before recruiters even consider a visit. This is the very best way to make a great first impression. Presently, Henderson is failing miserably at making this good impression.

Click on the web site to the left of this screen for “Henderson municipal government” and you be the judge of what message this web site sends to prospective developers or a business community. The pictures are fine, but take some time to read. Does it appear that we have a healthy, open government and business climate?

Having sat in state-wide meeting after meeting on economic development, the importance of a web site was emphasized as the best hook for capturing attention and for promoting a city to economic developers. So, let us continue to judge the impression Henderson’s web site offers of our city and its government.

Think about this. If today the NC Department of Commerce should recommend Henderson as a viable community for locating a business enterprise here — whether an incubator, a green energy company, or a future technology business — the first thing a recruiter does is look at our web site. After that first look, how many companies do you think would even bother to give us a second glance?

Here is a little of what they would see. The last Council minutes to make it onto the web site were minutes from 2007. There are no committee meeting minutes since 2007, and, in fact, it is difficult to find out if committees have even met. As easy as it is in the electronic age to share and distribute information, it would appear that Henderson is way behind the curve. Either the city does not want the taxpayers to know what is happening, or they do not think it is important to have this information readily accessible. Does this send the picture of an engaged, progressive, creative, all-inclusive, and caring community?

Go through the committees and you will see vacancies listed. One of the most important committees in many cites is their Community Development Committee. All those listed on this committee have expired terms. In addition, a careful reader would see that two members of the City Council are on the Planning Committee and one serves as the chairman. This opens the door for all kinds of problems from conflict of interest to unfair representation for ideas and issues. Are there any other municipalities in North Carolina that do business this way?

There are no news items or upcoming events. There is no message from the mayor. The council meetings have been held at times other than what is listed as public information. A “Land Use Plan” is a most vital document for developers and especially for companies interested in being green. Try to find it. While you are at it, notice that there are no minutes for the Economic Development Partnership Committee.

The City knows that keeping a viable web site is a great economic development tool. They cannot argue that money is a cause for their failure because they find money for everything else. Additionally, any high school intern could update our web site weekly. So, if others are judging our city by our web site, would they think? Would they think that we are as inept, lazy, complacent, unconcerned, disconnected, ambivalent, and as out of touch as our web site makes us appear? What would they think about our initiative and the business climate in Henderson? You be the judge.