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Pete Gherini elected board Chair and Lee Rankin voted Vice Chair

BOONE, NC – The Watauga Economic Development Commission (EDC) met Thursday, February 9, 2023, forits first meeting since the Watauga County Board of Commissioners re-organized the group. Recently appointed at-large members Suzanne Livesay (Appalachian Theatre) and Lee Rankin (Apple Hill Farm) were in attendance for their first meeting while Dan Meyer (Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, retired) was the lone at-large member that previously served on the Watauga EDC.

Joe Furman, Director of Economic Development for the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, led the meeting, sharing the history of the organization since its inception in 1984. He also advised the group on the current articles of association and rules of procedure, and offered minor modifications that would bring the founding documents up to standards that match the current mission of the EDC. The group also reviewed previous projects and investment history made by the EDC, which included the development of the Watauga County Industrial Park, investments in the High Country Food Hub, Middle Fork Greenway, and Boone Underground to name a few.

The bulk of the meeting was spent on discussing current economic development priorities, as communicated by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners and implemented by the previous EDC.  Current priorities include participation in the community housing conversation, early childhood development, outdoor economy, and small business support. Members discussed adding workforce development and education, food security, and connectivity to its stated lists of priorities.

Officers for the new board were elected. Pete Gherini, member of the Blowing Rock Town Council, was voted as Chair of the EDC. Lee Rankin, owner of Apple Hill Farm was elected Vice Chair. Furman will remain staff liaison to the EDC and serve the board as secretary and treasurer.

“The new revised EDC will reach out to communities around the county to hear first-hand what’s going on,” said Gherini. “We have a group of dedicated citizens on our board that want to make the county a better place to live.”

“I thought this first meeting with the newly appointed members went very well,” said Furman. “I was pleased with the depth and variety of the discussion. The members seemed comfortable and very willing to participate in a thoughtful way. I was also pleased that several members of the public were in attendance.”

Future meetings will be rotated through the municipalities represented on the EDC. The next meeting will be held Thursday, March 16, 2023, from 1-2:30pm in Blowing Rock. All meetings are open to the public. An exact location for the meeting will be communicated in the coming days.