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Panel takes aim at rules that block business growth

Henderson County ordinances are targeted by a regulation review committee that includes David Hill. Henderson County ordinances are targeted by a regulation review committee that includes David Hill.

A 13-member committee appointed to identify county regulations that impede business growth and job creation held its organizational meeting Thursday night, hearing mostly pro-business comments in introductory remarks by the members in attendance.

The board agreed to post a web survey on the county's website soliciting comments from business owners who had problems with county regulations.
The only hint of dissension came when Renee Kumor, a former county commissioner and pro-growth management member, challenged chairman Bert Lemkes about whether the mission of the committee was predetermined. It is not, Lemkes said, but he brushed aside Kumor's suggestion that the committee should devote any time to exploring what the county is doing right in economic development.
"I'm not so much looking for what we're doing good," said Lemkes, the co-owner of the Van Wingerden International greenhouses in Mills River. "I don't think the county commissioners are looking for a pat on the back."
The commissioners created the Regulation Review Advisory Committee and gave it six months to identify regulations that block business growth or job creation. Made up of 12 men and one women, the committee has a cross section of members from larger industries, building and finance.
The members introduced themselves Thursday evening at the meeting at the Historic Courthouse. Members attending  were:

  • Larry Baber, a pharmacist who owns rental property in the city and county, said, "I do not have an ax to grind" but wanted to help business grow.
  • Jim Clarke, the CFO of Manual Woodworkers, said, "I'm looking to help bring business and government closer together."
  • Jim Ayers, a homebuilder who owns NewPointe Construction, said he hoped to bring his experience in business to bear in the committee's work.
  • David Hill, a surveyor, applauded the effort. "I believe the less government is involved in our business affairs, the better off we are."
  • Nathan Kennedy, a banker with First Citizens and the chair-elect of the Partnership for Economic Development, said he had seen from the banking perspective the negative impact of regulations. "Some regulation is good, too much is not good," he said. "I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish as a group."
  • Dick Kranker, a retired foreign service officer, said he'd been hired to identify cost savings in the diplomatic corps. Of government regulations, he said, "I've been involved in following them, writing them, amending them and arguing with them all my adult life."
  • Renee Kumor, a former county commissioner, said she hoped to represent homeowners, who sometimes need the protection of zoning and other rules to preserve their quality of life and property value.
  • Matt Matteson, a former county planning director and city manager, is retired from Blue Ridge Community College. "Sometimes planning directors get a bad reputation that they're all environmentalists but the fact is if you're a planner you want things to happen."

Other board members are Jeffery Bowen, a computer company owner from Flat Rock; car dealer Jay Egolf; Ken Gordon, an executive with Norm's convenience stores; and Jeff Justus, a commercial real estate broker.

Lemkes, appointed chair by the Board of Commissioners, cautioned the board not to get sidetracked by regulations that the county can't control. "I think it needs to be made very clear that we're talking about county regulations, not city regulations or federal and state regulations," he said.

The committee agreed to invite organizations with economic development constituencies to make what Lemkes described as succinct 10-15-minute presentations. He mentioned the Partnership for Economic Development, the county Agribusiness development office; the Partnership for Economic Progress, a private pro-business group; and ECO, the Environmental Conservation Organization.
On Lemke's recommendation, the board agreed to meet every two weeks until it got its work done. The board elected Clarke vice chairman. Each board member was issued a thick binder containing county ordinances.