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EDA makes structural changes

Investors will have a greater say in the work of the newly organized Coastal Gateway Economic Development Alliance, but the mission of the five-county economic development organization remains the same, board members said.

Chip Harrigan of Fulton Logging Company, who was elected as the interim chairman during the alliance’s first board meeting at BankTrust in Monroeville last week, said that the alliance’s main mission is to draw business and industry to Escambia, Monroe, Conecuh, Clarke and Choctaw counties.

“Cosmetically, there are not many changes, but structurally, there are significant changes,” Harrigan said last week. “It’s actually a different type of organization.”

The old Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority was a “quasi governmental” body whose board was appointed by each county commission, with three members per county, Harrigan said.

“That structure has changed,” Harrigan said. “We’ve embarked on our second five-year fundraising campaign, and as part of that fundraising campaign, we hired a fundraising group that went out and interviewed about 60-70 of our investors and asked for their input on how they felt like the organization could be improved.”

During their efforts, the newly developed alliance was able to start with $1.255 million in secured pledges.

“One of the things that they said is that they would like to have more of a say in the direction of the organization,” Harrigan said. “As a result and countless hours of conversation among board members, we decided to restructure ourselves.”

In doing so, investors can contribute and earn seats on the board.

“The board now consists of the investors,” Haringan said. “If you contribute a certain level, you get a board seat and you get a say in how the organization is run. The old board, as of the 29th, has turned over the organization, all of the assets and liabilities to the new board.”

Last week, Escambia County Commission Chairman David Stokes was selected as interim secretary/treasurer.

Commissioners had earlier pledged $25,000 over the next five years for the budget of the alliance.

“We felt like we wanted a more hands-on arrangement,” Stokes said of the county commission’s involvement. “If we were going to contribute the county’s money, we wanted to see how it was being used and have a voice in those decisions.”

County Commissioner Larry White said the alliance’s reorganization is a good opportunity for the county.

“With the reorganization of the group, this should be a positive move for everyone — especially Escambia County,” White said. “I feel confident with the changes that with our pledge and an executive position on the board this will give the county a better position in the group.”

In August, the alliance plans to hold a kickoff celebration event to introduce the new board and structure of the alliance.

Charter board members include Harrigan; Stokes; Bryan Jones of Crowne Management; Sam Covert (and Peggy Byrd) of Alabama Power Company; Mayor Terri Carter of the Town of Repton; Mayor Richard Long of the City of Jackson; Mayor Sheldon Day of the City of Thomasville; John Barnett of BankTrust; Mayor Pete Wolff of the City of Evergreen; Mayor Jerry Newton of the City of Grove Hill; Mayor Ted Jennings of the City of Brewton; Commissioner Karen Bradford of the Clarke County Commission; Mayor Ben Smith of the Town of Butler; Mayor Mike Kennedy of the City of Monroeville; and Mayor Howard Shell of the City of Atmore.

Lisa Tindell contributed to this story.