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Lightning Editorial: Work together ... and see what can happen

The vote to allow tax incentives to attract the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., the five-party agreement to build the health sciences building and cancer center on the Pardee Hospital campus, and the final vote — after years of conflict and rancor — to fund the Hendersonville High School construction-renovation plan come to mind as milestones of smart decision-making that produce long-ranging benefits.

The work of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners and the Hendersonville City Council on a single day last week may end up eclipsing even those hallmarks of vision and leadership in the years to come.
Last Wednesday morning, county commissioners took action on two huge economic development enterprises. They agreed to a $7 million bridge loan that will allow Conserving Carolina to consummate the purchase of the Hendersonville-to-Brevard rail line, clearing the way for the Ecusta Trail. They also authorized tax incentives to attract a manufacturer to an 18-acre parcel of land off Upward Road and, in a companion agreement, agreed to loan $1.7 million to the county’s jobs recruiting agency to purchase 41 acres for a new industrial park.
A day of two remarkable partnerships was complete when the Hendersonville City Council matched the county’s action — authorizing a loan of the same amount to the Partnership for Economic Development and voting unanimously to offer tax incentives to the manufacturer the Partnership is currently courting.
The Ecusta Trail project is itself an impressive partnership, with no fewer than 11 major players. The team behind the 20-mile greenway from Hendersonville to Brevard is made up of the county Board of Commissioners, the elected councils of Hendersonville, Laurel Park and Brevard, the tourism agencies of Henderson and Transylvania counties, the NCDOT, the French Broad MPO, Conserving Carolina, the county Greenway Master Plan Committee and, of course, the Friends of Ecusta Trail. Behind the scenes, former state Rep. Chuck McGrady and Sen. Chuck Edwards have been effective advocates, as has Commissioner Bill Lapsley, who chairs the French Broad MPO. As the effort approaches critical mass, corporate partners, naming rights and private donors cannot be far behind.
A few years ago, the Partnership for Economic Development had the foresight to create a separate nonprofit, the Economic Investment Fund, in order to acquire land and develop industrial sites. Through a creative three-party agreement, the city and county are financing the new industrial park on land between Upward and Crest roads that was once the Garrison family’s High Hopes apple orchard.
County commissioners’ schizophrenic personality disorder has reverted to the cooperative and reasonable version, from the unreasonable, vindictive one. The commissioners, which have frozen two major developments in recent months by blocking the city from extending water lines, are now welcoming the city’s partnership on the EIF project, under which the city provides water and sewer and annexes the property.
In the span of less than 12 hours, the City Council and Board of Commissioners made bold decisions that dramatically brightened the community’s economic horizon. Here’s hoping they can adopt that visionary outlook in all their decisions and recognize that working together drives a powerful engine for progress.