Candidates discuss economic incentives, jobs and
tourism at forum
By David Bodenheimer
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 11:47 p.m.
Six of the eight candidates vying for a spot on the Davidson County Board of
Commissioners attended a forum Tuesday night sponsored by the Lexington
Young Leadership Forum and the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce.
Democratic candidates Kevin Williams and Ronald Swicegood were absent. The
two candidates also skipped a candidate forum held last month by Piedmont
Crossing Retirement Home in Thomasville. The eight candidates are seeking to
fill four spots
Tuesday’s forum was moderated by Will Tate of the Young Leadership Forum and
Phillip McGirt of the chamber.
The candidates were not provided a list of the questions prior to the forum.
Questions dealing with job creation and job retention as well as economic
development were popular topics. Candidates also fielded a handful of
questions from the audience.
Candidates agreed and disagreed on most questions, but all six — incumbent
Republicans Don Truell and Sam Watford and Billy Joe Kepley, and challengers
Republican Todd Yates and Democrats Jeff Switzer and Jason Hedrick — agreed
on their accessibility, giving the public a green light to call them at home
to discuss their candidacy. Their response was prompted by an audience
member’s question that was simply, “Can we call you at home?” All the
candidates also said they would not raise taxes in the immediate future and
would do everything feasible to keep the county tax rate at it’s current
rate — 54 cents for every $100 in valued property — for as long as possible.
On the heels of the recent TIMCO Aviation Services announcement — a company
that has pledged to bring 500 jobs to the county — candidates were asked
what they could do specifically to enhance and or improve efforts to attract
and retain businesses in the county.
“I’m not a fan of economic incentives,” said Switzer. “But it’s the game
that’s played in every county and every state in this nation. But when we do
those incentives, we have to make sure we’re not on the losing end of that
stick.” Switzer suggested that the company should pay back whatever
incentives were promised to them by the county if they do not meet an
agreement, which many economic development contracts already stipulate.
“This is without a doubt the most important question in the county,”
said Watford. “We’ve got to make county government as business-friendly
Hedrick agreed with Watford saying, “We need to continue incentives to reach
the large businesses and also the small businesses.” Hedrick also said he
would like to see more infrastructure and sewer built across more of the
county in hopes that it would attract retail shops and restaurants.
Kepley touted the need to enhance the quality of life as an alternative to
attract businesses but didn’t oppose the need for economic incentive grants.
“We have events like the Barbecue Festival, Everybody’s Day, the Denton
FarmPark has attractions,” said Kepley, “and a lot of employers look for
that (quality of life) so they can spend the weekend and get refreshed and
come back Monday morning ready to go to work.”
Kepley’s comments lead into a question about tourism, and what the county
could do to expand those efforts and promote the county. Unlike Kepley, who
has lobbied hard for better county tourism efforts, Todd Yates said tourism
is not what the county should be focused on.
“We only have four motels in Davidson County, so to have a lot of tourism
here, I don’t know where we would put these people,” said Yates. “We do have
some great attractions but most people, when they think about tourism they
think of places like Charleston, South Carolina, or Boston. I’d like for us
to build on tourism but I just think we’ve got a little ways to go before we
can expect that to be an industry.”
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