PEMBROKE — With the holiday season approaching, the chairman of COMtech’s board of directors isn’t optimistic that any new business development will take place at the financially struggling industrial park until after the beginning of the new year.
Ronnie Hunt also doubts any new businesses will be knocking on COMtech’s door until the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama come to an agreement over tax legislation.
On Wednesday, COMtech’s board of directors met to develop an interim plan for operating the park in the absence of a permanent executive director. Ken Windley, a former Robeson County county manager and executive director of COMtech since January 2011, resigned last month to become the interim county manager in Gates County.
Hunt, at the request of COMtech board members, agreed to continue serving as interim executive director until the end of the year. He is receiving no pay for his service.
“I don’t want the job permanently,” he said. “I will serve until the end of the year and that is all.”
Hunt had hoped that COMtech board members would come to Wednesday’s meeting with some ideas on how to move the park forward until a new executive director is in place and the park can re-establish sound financial footing.
“No one had any ideas,” said Hunt, who has repeatedly said that somehow COMtech’s doors are going to remain open.
Hunt said that he believes after the beginning of the year enough money can be found to hire an executive director on a part-time basis. It’s unlikely, he said, that money will be available to hire someone full-time.
According to Hunt, there was no discussion about the maintenance and security fees park tenants now pay being raised to generate additional revenue. The board last month authorized County Attorney Hal Kinlaw to start legal action necessary to collect maintenance and security fees from several tenants who have not been paying.
During Wednesday’s brief meeting, the COMtech board also heard a presentation from Rick Meredith, a senior vice president with the The Hollingsworth Companies, a company hired to market COMtech. Hollingsworth is headquartered in Clinton, Tenn.
Meredith said that since a website marketing COMtech went live on Sept. 15, 38 companies have viewed information about the park. Two have asked for more details, he said.
Meredith said he considers the number of responses “good” for that amount of time.
He said that even though the country’s economy has been sluggish, his company has been seeing “good activity” at sites in several states where it is involved in development projects.
Windley, when announcing his resignation, told the board of directors it was a result of his pay being chopped by two-thirds, from $90,000 to $30,000 a year, after the county Board of Commissioners cut $100,000 from COMtech’s funding request for the current fiscal year.
COMtech began operating in January 2001. The park, consisting of more than 700 acres, is designed to provide homes to technology-focused businesses, industry, educational facilities and business incubators. According to Windley, there are about 30 businesses located at COMtech that employ more than 1,000 people.