PEMBROKE — It will take a good salary to find and keep a qualified individual to manage the development of the financially struggling COMtech, the outgoing executive director told members of industrial park’s board of directors on Tuesday.
Ken Windley, a former Robeson County manager and COMtech’s executive director since January 2011, submitted his letter of resignation to the board during Tuesday’s brief directors meeting. Windley, a public administrator for more than 37 years, is leaving to become the interim county manager in Gates County. Windley’s last day at COMtech is today and he begins his new job on Monday.
Ronnie Hunt, the chairman of the board of directors, will manage the park on an interim basis.
Windley said his decision is financial.
“I can make more money as as a county manager,” he told board members who listened quietly and made no comments. “I’m sorry that the funds are not available from the county to keep my salary as it was, but I understand your situation.”
As a result of a reduction in county funding for COMtech, the executive director’s salary was cut from $90,000 to $30,000 a year. Windley had recently been being paid for only 13 hours a week, although he has said he often works as many as 20 hours a week in his efforts to recruit new businesses to the park.
COMtech, located just outside of Pembroke on N.C. 711, 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 currently about 30 businesses located at COMtech that employ more than 1,000 people.
In his remarks to the board, Windley said that he believes there are “still opportunities” for COMtech to attract businesses.
“It’s hard to attract new industries to come in and build,” he said. “Today, 95 percent of all industries are looking for sites that already have existing buildings.”
Hunt said after Tuesday’s meeting that he has been appointed as COMtech’s executive director until the board decides how to operate the facility in Windley’s absence.
Hunt said that the board will meet on Nov. 14 to try to “look for a direction” to go.
“COMtech’s doors are going to stay open,” he said.
According to Ricky Harris, Robeson County’s manager and a COMtech board member, the total allocation of county funds this fiscal year for COMtech is $132,000. Windley had requested that the county contribute $196,000 this year to operate the park.
Harris has also cited figures showing that county funding during the past fiscal year for COMtech totaled $194,000.
Windley has said part of the problem is that some businesses at COMtech have not been paying for services they receive, including security and maintenance.
Board member Linda Metzger said this morning that there are about seven businesses at COMtech that have not been paying their fees for security and maintenance.
“If we had their income we wouldn’t be in the financial situation we are in,” Metzger said. “Ken did an excellent job trying to collect that money. He even restructured the fee schedule so back taxes wouldn’t have to be paid … Unfortunately he didn’t get much support from the board to take legal action to collect.”