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Covington, Newton County taking different approaches to economic development
Economic Development


The City of Covington and Newton County appear to be taking different paths on economic development with the county looking to work through its industrial development authority and the city bringing the program in-house.

The moves come after the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce voted late last year to get out of the business of economic development and instead focus on growing its membership base and providing value for its current members.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted Feb. 20 to approve the structural framework of an Intergovernmental Agreement to move economic development services to the Newton County Industrial Development Authority.

According to terms of the agreement, members of the economic development staff will be employees of the IDA but subject to the county’s human resources and purchasing policies as approved by the Board of Commissioners.

The county will also provide funding to the IDA from April until June 2020 equivalent to what it would have paid the Chamber of Commerce for economic development services. Commissioners voted earlier this year to approve moving economic development to the IDA contingent on approval of an IGA with the Authority.

At its Feb. 17 meeting, the Covington City Council took no action on an agreement with the IDA to provide economic development services, opting instead to move the program under the city’s control.

Before the vote, Mayor Steve Horton said that it’s important that the city continue to collaborate with the county on economic development.

“I would like a commitment that that we continue to pursue collaborative efforts with the county because that’s critical,” he said.

The vote was 5-1 in favor of the move with Hawnethia Williams casting the dissenting vote. The council also voted to move the Main Street program under city control by the same vote total.