Leaders from Matthews, Mint Hill, Indian Trail and Stallings have all agreed to work together in planning for economic development in the area after more than a year of discussions have finally come to fruition.
All four towns have put up funding and agreed to move forward with the newly formed Alliance of South Charlotte Communities. The first meeting for the group has not been scheduled yet, but is currently being considered for some time in March. Each town will have three representatives – an elected official, town manager and one resident – although not all towns have nominated their third representative. The alliance currently does not have any plans on the docket, but has applied for a grant with Creative Economic Development Consulting that would help put members on the right track.
“We had an opportunity to respond to a grant, and that grant was to provide a package of support to jumpstart something like this. … I’m not sure when that grant comes to fruition. I don’t know how many players have applied,” John Urban, a former Matthews commissioner who is now a member of the committee, said.
The grant, for $25,000, would bring in a consulting firm to help the alliance lay the groundwork for any projects it would like to accomplish, something members hope will prevent the alliance from making mistakes right out of the gate.
“We want to bring some expertise in, and it’s someone who has worked with multi-jurisdictional projects before and they can come in and guide us and tell us where the pitfalls are,” Jamie Justice, Matthews assistant town manager, said.
Creative Economic Development Consulting should announce the winner of the grant by the end of March, and will assist the group from April to November, Justice added.
In addition to the grant money, each town has put $4,000 toward getting the alliance off the ground. The towns are interested in beginning discussions and seeing what direction and shape the alliance takes, Indian Trail town manager Joe Fivas said.
First on the list, although all towns have signed on, will be working out the bylaws of the group so leaders from each town feel more comfortable, Urban said. Leaders in Mint Hill and Stallings had reservations about joining without assurance that the towns could leave the alliance, without penalty, if they later decided the economic efforts of the group are not suited for their community.
“There is still a little concern on the ground rules and the bylaws. We got a letter from (Stallings) just the other week that they are on board, but they still have questions about the bylaws,” Urban said. Stallings was the last town to agree to join the alliance.
Talks for the Alliance of South Charlotte Communities began last year after town leaders came together to discuss a way to promote economic development in the area. The group is modeled after the partnership in north Mecklenburg between Huntersville, Davidson and Cornelius. Efforts could range from shared services like trash collection, water and sewer and public safety, to larger projects like a shared business park that benefits all of the towns, much like what was seen in north Mecklenburg.