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Leland Innovation Park Organization Hosts First Board Meeting

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Nov 30, 2018
New board members including local economic developers and company leaders gathered this week for the first board meeting of a nonprofit organization formed to carry out improvements at the Leland Industrial Park.

After a bumpy start with its unveiling and informational meeting in late July, the group has established a board and advisory committee that will be part of the Leland Innovation Park initiative.

Leland Innovation Park Inc. is a nonprofit organization that aims to seek grants from public and private entities to fund improvement initiatives in the park. It also seeks to rebrand the park and rename it Leland Innovation Park.

Gene Merritt, the organization’s president and spokesman, who is also chairing the board, said Friday that other executive board positions have not yet been named.

The board moves forward even among issues raised in July about the original covenants established with the park's developer back in the early '90s, which raised questions during the summer over who managed the park.

At least one company leader in the park is still concerned over the legalities of the ability for the group to manage the park. Mark Miller, CFO of Bradford Products said he did not respond to an invitation to join the organization's board due to "an issue with who is the responsible party for the park."

In an email, Miller said that if Leland Innovation Park Inc. gains the legal authority to manage the park, then he will join the initiative.

The group officially launched its website late this summer and for the first time gathered its board Nov. 29, for what Merritt called an introductory meeting.

Merritt said now that the group's board has been established, part of the organization's work in the future will be to look into the technicalities involved with the covenants and renaming the park.

Merritt believes that the management of the restrictive covenants has nothing to do with the promotion of the park and that the organization has the legal right to market the park.

“The administration of the covenants have been neglected for many years,” Merritt said. “Regardless, it will not affect us from achieving our goals and objectives … I’m not overly concerned about it. It’s a matter of housekeeping that needs to be done to clear up the situation.”

The board, however, does include other industry professionals from a wide range of sectors with businesses in the Leland Industrial Park, including Pete Peterson, founder and CEO of Manufacturing Methods Inc.

Other economic development professionals involved with the board include David Sink, with the Leland Economic Development Committee; Gary Vidmar, Leland's economic and development director; and Steve Yost, president of North Carolina’s Southeast.

Brunswick Business & Industry Development (BrusnwickBID) has two representatives on the board: Jason McLeod, who is chair of BrunswickBID's board, and Bill Early, the organization’s executive director.

“From what I see, the meeting last night was our initial meeting, and it was mostly organizational and coordination. I felt like the meeting was very positive, and everyone that was in attendance was very positive and in support of the efforts to move forward,” Early said.

“One of the things I am a strong believer of is teamwork, and working collectively towards a common vision or goal," he added. "And because we work with existing industries and a lot of our existing industries are located in the Leland Industrial Park, I believe it's very important that we stay connected, not only with this group that hopes to make improvements in the park, and also to support the existing businesses and industry that’s currently located within the industrial park.”

When asked about the covenants, Early said, "I would say that right now it does not create a problem in moving forward. I do not know at this point if it’s something that needs to be addressed, but in some ways, the entity that had those restrictive covenants is not so much in place anymore."

“I guess you could get into whether BrunswickBID inherited those covenants. But I think at this point everyone is trying to focus on working collectively for the common good,” Early added.

Going forward, Merritt said, he plans to go back to the board with primary goals and objectives for the coming months. He is also developing a budget for the group and a list of priorities, including improving signage.

Merritt is also applying for a grant within the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation's community progress fund. According to the foundation's website, the awards are one per year and grant range from $20,000 to $30,000 annually for one or two years.

A date for the next board meeting has not been set. But the board hopes to meet quarterly, if not more, in the initial stages of the organization, Merritt said.
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