MARSHALL - Madison County has morphed its economic development director position previously occupied by Terry Bellamy into the role of development services director.
The county introduced Brad Guth in the newly formed role on Jan. 18.
Guth referred to the role as encompassing an "umbrella division," as it will include planning and zoning, GIS and inspections in addition to economic development.
"They've just streamlined the organizational structure in the county," he said. "The Development Services Department is a new department. There are a lot of departments in North Carolina that are organized this way, rather than having a single individual over building inspections and planning. That's what this role does."
Guth has more than 20 years of public sector experience in local government economic development, including 16 years as the business and community development director in Lincolnton.
"My entire career has basically been in the public sector," said Guth, who met his wife in college at Mars Hill University before following her to Furman University.
Guth said he and his wife were excited to return to Madison County all these years later.
"I was looking in the western part of the state for a position because we were interested in moving back to this area," he said. "Of course, I started where we felt most interested in moving. At the time, it just so happened that the county had the position open. I applied, and almost immediately got a response that they wanted to come talk to me. I came up and met with Brooke (Ledford), the human resources director, and Norris Gentry, the interim county manager and county commissioner."
Guth said the process involved a quick turnaround, as he and his wife moved Jan. 13 and are renting a house in the downtown area.
"So, it was a pretty quick turnaround time in terms of being interviewed and the offer," Guth said. "I moved (Jan. 13) and we rented a house in downtown Mars Hill."
Guth, who is renting his home from a member of Mars Hill government, said he has been eager to meet with local officials in the county about the prospect of new business and development.
"(Jan. 19) I went and met with Mars Hill (Town Manager Nathan Bennett) and Marshall (Town Administrator Forrest Gilliam) and talked a little bit about what they envisioned about the economic development and the development services department," Guth said. "I got a lot of good feedback from them. There has been some strategic plans that have been done already previously, in terms of economic development. It largely deals with some product development - having the opportunity for an industry that may be looking for a place to go in Madison County."
While the role has expanded to include more than economic development, that aspect continues to be central to the position's identity, Guth said.
"There are limited opportunities here right now. So we're going to be looking at other potential sites for industrial development, as well as maybe some smaller-scale buildings for smaller manufacturing-type activity," Guth said. "Of course, I'm going to be dealing with small business development, entrepreneurial development. One of the bread and butter things here is tourism, so we'll be doing all of that across the economic development spectrum."
The new development services director said it is "exciting" to assume the position amid the county's expansion, and added that workforce development would be a key focus in his tenure.
"When you have that type of growth, there are some growing pains in some areas, and then in other areas you are excited and thrilled that it's happening," he said. "We're going to work on some infrastructure improvements that need to be done in the community. Another area is going to be our workforce development, and trying to cater our workforce to 21st century skills and technology. We're trying to match up what we have with the potential in the county."
County comprehensive plan
The county's comprehensive plan, last updated in 2010, will be re-drafted as part of a state mandate in Chapter 160D of the North Carolina General Statutes.
Guth said the comprehensive plan will be spearheaded by the development services department.
"There's been a lot of excitement about the plan," he said. "We'll be working on that in the immediate future to get that planning process kicked off and get a new plan in place. Probably a lot of what is in the existing plan, a lot of the goals and objectives have probably been accomplished. You're probably looking at some of the longer-term things that you'll need considerable work on. Goals and ideas of what you want to see in your future do change over time, and we'll want to get residents' input on any type of changes and improvements that they'd like to see included in that plan."
Guth said he was planning to visit with Hot Springs Mayor Abby Norton on Jan. 20.
"That's what I'm going to be doing the first few weeks, is just getting out to meet the players that are involved in the community," he said. "One of the first things that I'd like to do is set up a business and industry visitation program where I'll go out and visit with existing businesses and industry in the community and find out what needs they have and what programs, and make sure they're aware that they can take advantage of the local government they have, and just kind of get my finger on the pulse of the business community here in Madison County.
"We're trying to amplify and accelerate with all the positive things that are happening here," Guth said.
According to the county newsletter, Guth's hobbies include old house rehabilitation, coaching soccer, reading nonfiction and volunteering.
Guth and his wife have twin daughters, Alice and Lydia, who are freshmen at Davidson College and Furman University.
Guth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Brad Guth introduced in new role of development services director