NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The Wilmington area isn't faring very well in the recovery from the great recession. Wilmington ranked near the bottom of the state's list for job growth last year - adding only 700 new jobs in 2012.
Local industries that added jobs included government and leisure/hospitality, while the professional & business services industry here shed hundreds of jobs.
We literally have dozens of local economic development organizations trying to recruit jobs and business to the area, and many of them are using your tax money to do it. A conservative estimate of the amount of public money funneled into these local non-profit organizations last year, is $8 million.
Several of these organizations' directors are making six figures - even getting bonuses despite the lackluster economy.
Most people would agree that our area needs more jobs.
"21,000 people are looking for work now in the Wilmington region," said Jim Bradshaw, director of the Brunswick County Economic Development Commission. "So it's important that we work together to make it happen."
Bradshaw makes about $100,000 a year, which we're told is pretty typical for an economic development director in an area the size of Brunswick County. Bradshaw and his small staff stay busy meeting with site consultants, going to trade shows, conferences and more, trying to bring new jobs here. The BEDC is funded by county tax payers, and has an annual budget of $396,682.
Across the bridge in Wilmington - Chamber of Commerce CEO Connie Majure-Rhett is making almost $150,000 in salary and benefits. The chamber gets most of its money from membership dues, but also accepted $70,000 in public funding last year for economic development work.
Then there's Wilmington Business Development. The non-profit is primarily funded by private money, but it also does work for the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, and Pender County, and accepted $310,000 in public funding last year.
WBD's own website lists the GE expansion 5 years ago as the last significant job creator here. Yet the latest public financial reports show WBD's CEO Scott Satterfield makes $303,426 in total compensation a year - including a $27,515 bonus.
We asked Satterfield if it was difficult to explain to people why the director of a non-profit with 3 full-time employees would be so highly compensated. His reply: "My board sets my compensation, and I do the work."
Satterfield says taxpayers are more than getting their money's worth, if you add up all the new jobs WBD has helped bring here over the years.
We asked New Hanover County Commission Chair Woody White if he thought Satterfield's salary is appropriate. "If I were setting Scott's salary as commissioner, I can assure you he would not be making that much money, but I don't set his salary. His group does, and the private dollars they raise do, and evidently they feel that he's worth that."
White was recently appointed to WBD's executive board, but he says he has no plans to try to get Satterfield's salary reduced. That's because he thinks there are bigger issues at stake. He's more concerned with revamping the way we go about recruiting jobs here in general.
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