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Economic director resigns

Stanly County is again in the market for a director of economic development.

Michael Smith stunned county leaders including the Economic Development Commission Thursday by announcing his departure as the county’s director of economic development. Smith said he made the “difficult” decision to accept an opportunity in another county that better suits his family.

Michael Smith

“The location will put us closer to our daughter, my parents, and my in-laws,” Smith said.

Smith was hired March 6, 2017, after a three-month search for a director.

Rick Williams, chairman of the county’s EDC, said Smith’s decision came as a “total surprise.”

“I’m disappointed we’re losing a good guy because we’ve got a lot of irons in the fire,” Williams said.

One of those irons is the launch of the Riverstone Business Park in Stanfield, which Smith has been actively promoting.

“I am proud of several accomplishments of our team,” Smith said. “The Riverstone Business Park will be a positive driver for the entire county, and this office continues to work to bring new jobs and investment to that site.

“Our collaborative effort with the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., the N.C. Department of Commerce, the Foundation for the Carolinas, and the city of Albemarle to bring in a new industry (Quality Enclosures) is something for which we should all be proud. That was another example of how and why economic development is always called a team sport,” he added.

County Manager Andy Lucas attributed much of the early success at Riverstone to Smith’s experience and contacts.

Andy Lucas

“Michael has been a true asset to Stanly County,” Lucas said. “Michael has extensive experience and knowledge in the economic development arena, and he also has a great number of contacts and established relationships with real estate brokers, site consultants, utility providers and our regional and statewide business development partners.

“Michael has been instrumental in the county’s efforts to further design, develop and market the Riverstone Industrial Park in western Stanly,” Lucas continued.  “Further, he has used his past relationships to generate multiple leads for business development in Stanly County.”    

Smith praised the county’s leadership including its many natural assets, which figures to be critical to Stanly’s future development.

“It has been a pleasure to talk about a place with 10,000 acres of lakes, four vineyards, Morrow Mountain, the Uwharries and two of the most impressive corporate event sites in the U.S., The Fork (Farm and Stables) and Lucky Clays,” Smith said.  “A place that will soon have a state of the art Pfeiffer Health Sciences Center in the middle of Albemarle, a new business park 12 minutes from I-485, and the historic town of Badin, with their beautiful identity, and the significant power and rail at their site.”

As he has on previous occasions, most recently the period between the resignation of former director Paul Stratos and Smith’s hiring, Lucas will serve as interim economic director.

Smith’s last day on the job will be Aug. 30.

Lucas said he has already begun the recruitment process to fill the vacancy.

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or ritchie.starnes@ritchie.starnes@stanlynewspress.com.