New Hanover County has broadened the scope of what economic development might mean when it comes to potential funding, according to county officials.
It’s all part of a new non-county agency funding policy for economic and nonprofit agencies or other outside health and human service groups. The new process will begin with the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.
The measure provides a “bright line” between the groups and creates a more formalized process for outside agency funding, said Beth Schrader, the county’s chief strategy and budget officer.
This fiscal year, the county contributed more than $1.4 million to outside agencies, according to County Manager Chris Coudriet. The county budget included about $443,000 for economic development and more than $613,000 for health and human services groups, as well as $357,000 for cultural and recreational groups.
The new process came from a directive by county commissioners when considering this fiscal year’s budget, Coudriet said.
“The board felt like the methodology for making recommendations for outside agency funding – there wasn’t much rhyme or reason. They wanted … a process for identifying what should be funded,” he said.
While many of the changes are focused around the separate category for nonprofits and other agencies, but some changes are being made on the economic development front.
Under the new policy, the broader definition for the economic development category opens opportunities for more community-based groups, Schrader said.
“Community-based economic development organizations are organizations that increase the community wealth. Very often they do that by bringing in visitors from outside that are spending money specifically within the community,” Schrader said.
Previous economic development allocations, some of which are under multi-year contracts, have included groups such as Wilmington Business Development and the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. Community-based economic organizations, such as those that run attractions and festivals, can apply now, Schrader said.
All economic development agencies must apply for funding as part of the changes, except those with multiyear contracts, Schrader said. Those under contract will have to reapply when their contract terms end.
Previously, the small group of economic development agencies funded by the county did not have to submit a formal application like the one set through the county’s new policy. Those applications will be received by the county manager, who will make recommendations to the board.
“It’s really is about transparency. And it’s an opportunity for all different kinds of economic agencies,” Schrader said.
Schrader said she has already spoken to potential new applicants in Cucalorus Festival, Friends of the Battleship North Carolina and Friends of Fort Fisher.
Applications for all non-county agencies, under the new policy, are due by Jan. 31.