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EDC hires new director

The Beaufort County Economic Development Commission has ended its search for a new director.
Bob Heuts, retiring Lee County Economic Development Commission director, will take over the reins as head of the EDC on Nov. 1.
“He’s just a great guy — got a lot of good experience and knowledge,” said County Manager Randell Woodruff. “He’s worked in the field for 15 years and had a lot of success.”
According to the LCEDC website, in 2011-12, Heuts helped develop the conditions for major expansion of  Lee County’s industrial base, overseeing projects that created 726 new jobs and brought in more than $95 million in local investment and $18.3 million in new payroll. Under Heut’s leadership, LCEDC, along with Caterpillar Inc., was the recipient of Triangle Business Journal’s 2011 Space Award for the top economic development project — a project that included a $28.3 million expansion and will bring 325 new jobs and additional production lines to Caterpillar’s Sanford plant.
Lee County, a small county located southwest of Raleigh, is comparable in population and median household income to Beaufort County. However, according to the last economic census compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2007, in dollars, Lee County tallied twice the manufacturers shipments and merchant wholesaler sales of Beaufort County.
According to Woodruff, an EDC search committee presented County Commissioners with a summary review of three final candidates for the job of EDC director; of those, Heuts’ experience and past success made him the commissioners’ choice. Heuts signs on to the EDC directorship at an annual salary of $100,000, with a $6,000 travel expense package, Woodruff said.
The EDC operates with taxpayer funds, with Beaufort County contributing $195,031 of its annual budget, according to the 2012-13 county budget. According to the City of Washington’s 2012-13 budget, the city chipped in $60,000 to EDC, which represents a cut of $30,000 from the previous year.
Heuts will replace former EDC director Tom Thompson, who resigned from the position in June. Thompson was the face of economic development in Beaufort County for over a decade and instrumental in the creation of two industrial parks and a skills center providing short-term job-training skills. During Thompson’s last months as director, however, he faced increasing criticism from Beaufort County residents and leaders regarding the efficacy of EDC industrial-recruitment efforts.
Woodruff said that since Thompson resigned, queries from firms exploring possible relocation to Beaufort County and existing businesses interested in expansion have continued, despite the sluggish economy. That’s one reason why county officials are eager to have Heuts relocated and established as the new EDC director.
“We’re very excited to have him. He’s going to be a real asset to the community,” Woodruff said. “We’ll be very pleased to get him here and get things moving again.”
“I’m looking forward to the new experience,” Heuts said in a brief phone call. “Hopefully we’ll find a lot of support for continued good growth in Beaufort County … and that means everyone working together and everyone growing together.  That’s really what we need to be doing if we hope to be successful.”