Plans to change York County’s economic development board advance

Changes are still coming to York County’s economic development board, even after some local chambers hoped to maintain a bigger say in the county’s economic decisions.

The York County Council approved a revised ordinance 5-1 after a public hearing on Monday. Councilwoman Christi Cox cast the lone vote against.

If given final approval, the ordinance will remove automatic seats on the board for the county’s smaller chambers. Currently, seats are reserved for the Clover, Fort Mill, Lake Wylie, Rock Hill, Tega Cay and York chambers.

Changes will consolidate the chamber seats on the 17-member board into two, one chosen by the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce and representing the east side of the county, and one named by the Western York County Economic Development Alliance, a group representing the Clover, Lake Wylie and York areas.

Those chambers had asked the council to double the two groups’ representation, from one seat each to two, said Paul Boger, executive director of the Greater York Chamber of Commerce.

“If we could expand our representation, we would be comfortable,” Boger said. “For the value of what we do and what we bring to the table, to be removed or relegated (to one), that doesn’t seem logical to us.”

The final version of the ordinance passed Monday only includes one representative for each chamber organization. Councilman Robert Winkler offered an amendment to double the chambers’ members at the industries’ expense, but that vote failed 4-2.

Ray Williams with the Lake Wylie Civic Association argued the Lake Wylie chamber has been an active member of the board.

“Our chamber’s representative has been to the vast majority of economic development board meetings,” Williams said. “We have been active with quality people who understand business.”

The restructuring will open five seats on the board, which combined with the existing at-large seats will be allocated to manufacturing, real estate, banking, office work and warehousing.

Before casting her dissenting vote, Cox said she worried the change would narrow the board’s focus to almost exclusively major industrial recruitment.

“If we’re going to change it to be exclusively industry and manufacturing, we should probably change the mission statement before we change the composition.”

But Chad Williams argued the changes went hand-in-hand with the county’s changing economy.

“Thirty years ago, we might not have had big businesses to put on the board,” Williams said. “The chambers did good, but now we have manufacturers we can put on the board.”

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome