Orange County’s economic development director has quit just as the county and its towns are trying to ramp up business growth and retention.
Brad Broadwell, director since May 2008, is currently using up accrued leave time on his $96,044 a year job. Broadwell, known for his frank, enthusiastic boosterism of economic development, did not return phone calls this week seeking comment.
His resignation comes as Carrboro’s longtime economic development director, James Harris, retires early next year, and as elected leaders across the county are trying to see whether they can work together to ease the tax burden on homeowners.
In an interview soon after he arrived, Broadwell said economic development, and retail jobs in particular, had gotten a bad name in Orange County. “I don’t see populist economics being discussed,” he said. “I see Ph.D. economics being discussed.”
Bernadette Pelissier, the new chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, and others say Broadwell may have been misunderstood.
“He was new, and he might not have understood all the political ramifications,” Pelissier says.
Aaron Nelson, chamber CEO, says Broadwell had begun turning around Orange County's rep as a tough place to do business. "He really pushed," Nelson says, "both publicly and privately."
Local governments will continue to see where they can collaborate, and may meet as soon as January or February to discuss forming an independent entity to manage economic development, among other ideas.
“I don’t think [Broadwell’s resignation] will stop the effort at all,” Pelissier says.
Look for more on this story in tomorrow's News & Observer and Sunday's Chapel Hill News.