Two years ago I made hiring an economic development officer a central theme of my 2005 campaign. I thought we needed a professional to help create and then steer Chapel Hill’s economic policy.

From today’s N&O:

The town has hired its first economic development officer.

Dwight Bassett will relocate from Parkers Lake, Ky., to begin his new job on June 4. His annual salary will be $78,000.

Bassett has worked in economic development for the cities of Rock Hill and McCormick, S.C., Concord and Statesville, N.C., and Hinesville, Ga. “Dwight has worked to transform … underutilized properties into profit centers,” Town Manager Roger Stancil said in a news release. “[He has the] ability to find creative ways to make good things happen.”

I don’t recall the public being invited to review the candidates for this quite important position.

I hope that this was an oversight and was not because the Town Manager or Council thinks that an economic development officer is a second-tier position within our Town’s management team.

Dwight is on the ‘net. From his site Bear Oil Trading Company

Dwight Bassett is a former local government employee who worked in Economic and Downtown Development for over 18 years. He spent 15 years in the Charlotte, NC region working for three local governments and consulting to numerous others. He decided in 2005, after selling his home, to move to Parkers Lake and build a shop and become a woodsmith. He has spent much free time in his life restoring old homes and wood working.

One of those projects was managing the revitalization of Rock Hill’s “Old Town” “the original Rock Hill Town limits and includes the area within a 1.5 mile circle around Downtown.”

According to the Town’s news release Basset say:

“Chapel Hill is unique. There is a finite amount of land to grow on, which requires wise development of vacant parcels and redevelopment of existing sites like old shopping areas. I am excited to learn more about approaches that are best for Chapel Hill to improve the tax base, create job opportunities and enliven the community.”

Chapel Hill is unique, and not just because we have less area to develop commercial opportunities on. Sure, I’ve been on the forefront of those asking Council to consider revisiting/revising our Town’s vision for the Eastgate/Ramsgate/University Mall area with an eye towards greater density and better utilization, but I don’t want that to consume the new economic officer’s agenda.

We need to do more to build a solid economic base: jobs growth, increasing “cottage industry”, incubation of homegrown business, making our Town’s infrastructure – especially its technology infrastructure (municipal networking) – world-class to attract high economic/low environmental impact companies, etc.

This while we continue to work on solidifying existing initiatives.

Welcome to Chapel Hill Dwight, I look forward to meeting you and discussing innovative strategies for increasing Chapel Hill’s economic activity that don’t require paving over more of our Town.

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