The Anson Economic Development Corporation spent a good deal of its regular monthly meeting Thursday morning talking about ways to improve the image of Anson County to businesses and individuals who may be considering a move to the area.
The discussion was started by Realtor Don Scarborough, who said he recently had a couple who was considering the purchase of a farmhouse in a rural area outside Wadesboro but ultimately decided against moving to Anson County. An email from the woman stated that she and her husband decided not to pursue the purchase because of reasons such as the crime rate, schools and “injuries from aggression.”
“There is still a lot of negative information out there about Anson County,” Scarborough said. “Somewhere, there is something out there about crime in Anson County, and I’m not sure it’s accurate.”
Fellow Realtor Carroll Anderson said she also often hears from potential buyers that they do not want to move to Anson because of the crime rate. “I guess what we should do is start asking, ‘where did you get that information from?’”
Russell Sikes, who’s also a Realtor, said that many of the negative comments are coming from people who live in Anson County, not outsiders.
“I’m not saying we should sugar-coat anything,” Scarborough said, “but we need to find out where this information is coming from.”
While some of the information that can be found on the Internet may be outdated, County Manager Lawrence Gatewood said that the county’s website isn’t to blame for the problem.
Chamber of Commerce executive director Lynn Edwards said Joe Dutton, the county’s tax collector, had recently brought up the idea of implementing a contest for Anson County citizens to make a YouTube video touting the positive areas in the county. The members of the AEDC agreed this would be a great way to get a more positive image out to the general public.
Janine Rywak, director of the Anson County Cooperative Extension Service, said that Lewis Evans, formerly a Chamber chairman, gave a speech recently at the Farm Bureau dinner, and stated that he and his wife had moved to Anson County years ago because they visited the area and everyone was so nice and helpful. Scarborough said that’s the image that needs to get out to more people.
“It’s very beautiful here,” he said, “but what makes Anson County special is its people.”
Edwards said the Chamber may look into the idea of having a contest in early 2013, and AEDC chairman Chuck Horne said he was going to have Fred Sparger, who’s also on the AEDC but was absent from Thursday’s meeting, look into where the negative information about the county may be coming from.
In other business, Gatewood gave the group a mid-year county manager’s report. He first acknowledged the donation by AEDC, as well as the Anson Tourism Development Authority and Pee Dee Electric Cooperative in funding the county’s new welcome signs. Gatewood titled his report “Anson County — Investing in our future despite hard times.”
He pointed out that unemployment has fluctuated in recent months, after peaking in 2010. He also gave a personal experience as an example, saying on a recent trip to Food Lion, he bought three items and ended up paying $46. “How do our families that are struggling make it?” he asked.
He added that the county has to attract potential employers, as well as employees. “We’ve got GrowGreen on the horizon; that is still very much a viable project,” he said.
The county’s property tax rate has been flat at 76.7 cents for a number of years. The general fund operating budget has also remained flat since 2008-09. Goals for the county include continuing to sell surplus equipment, real estate and land, and timber, and to increase the county’s property tax collection rate, which is currently one of the lowest in the state at 92.68 percent.
Gatewood also gave an update on the county’s commitment to the future, which includes completion of renovations to the Belk building in uptown Wadesboro, a new emergency services center and a new agri-civic center. There’s also a new hospital in the works, and Gatewood said he is now considering using the current hospital building to relocate some county services that are in need of new offices.
The AEDC received a $5,000 donation from Pee Dee Electric CEO Donnie Spivey and the board of Pee Dee Electric to help the county fund the new agri-civic center. The $5,000 donation comes from a grant received through CoBank and Pee Dee Electric, and will match the $5,000 from CoBank, so a total of $10,000 will be donated to the new agri-civic center. “We’re excited that this $10,000 marks the very first monetary contribution toward the funding of the new Agri-Civic Center,” Gatewood said.
The AEDC will next meet at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 15.