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City trying to lure California company

Two Mount Airy officials have journeyed to California this week in an effort to strike gold with a company they hope will locate a facility in the city.

“I could see it offering lots of jobs and using lots of water,” Mayor Jon Cawley said of the best-case scenario that could be achieved before he and City Attorney Hugh Campbell departed to the Golden State.

They were heading to an undisclosed location to speak to representatives of an industry headquartered there which a veil of secrecy also surrounds.

“I can tell you it is a manufacturer,” the mayor said.

“The company has given us part of a day to try and woo them,” Cawley added earlier this week. “And I’m really excited about that.”

Hitting the ground running

The visit to California is coming at a time when no full-time industry recruiter is available locally due to the recent resignation of Surry Economic Development Partnership President Todd Tucker.

Cawley and Campbell indicated that their efforts are an attempt to be proactive in trying to boost the city’s economy in the absence of an individual dedicated solely to that function.

“The Board of Commissioners and mayor have hit the ground running in 2023 with a sharp focus on job creation and economic development,” in the words of the city attorney.

When seeking the mayoral post he was elected to in November, Cawley said being mayor would allow him to be the face of Mount Airy and “tell our story” in ways that seem to mirror this week’s venture.

Cawley said before leaving that he wants the city government to help existing local companies expand while also seeking others from outside which might provide job diversity.

“I don’t believe they would be competing with anything that we have now,” he assured regarding the California prospect.

In addition to job creation, tax and other benefits a new manufacturer could provide, there is a motivation to find more users of the municipality’s surplus water supply.

“We contacted them,” the mayor said of the entity in California, which was targeted due to its potential for tapping into that supply.

In January 2021, city Public Works Director Mitch Williams disclosed that the municipality had a water-production capacity of 8.5 million gallons per day, but only 2.3 million were being used.

At that time, Mount Airy officials were working on a plan to supply a small part of that surplus to the town of Pilot Mountain, with a need to find other users voiced.

Officials of the California company “have expressed interest” in an endeavor here, according to the mayor.

In addition to what that manufacturer would bring to the table on its own, he said its presence could lead to spinoff businesses being spawned locally.

Cost of trip detailed

Early during the week of Dec. 26, Cawley had asked for a meeting with the California-based company and one was granted, according to Campbell.

“The mayor eagerly accepted their invitation and asked me to accompany (him) in my role as city attorney,” he added.

All that led to a discussion during a closed session at the end of a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting on Jan. 5.

“The purpose of the closed session meeting was for me to apprise the board (of the situation), obtain authorization to go and discuss my role and responsibilities on the trip,” Campbell related.

Board members gave the nod for this.

“The money for the trip is in the city’s economic-development budget.” Campbell mentioned further. “The city will pay our expenses according to the city’s normal travel policies.”

Campbell said the total cost for both him and the mayor was estimated at $2,000 or less, with no additional expense or attorney fee to be involved for his participation.

He stressed that “at no time” has the board discussed economic-development incentives for the company out West.

“The purpose of this trip is to build goodwill and explore opportunities for future dialogue,” Campbell explained.

“Any commitment from the city would require approval by the board at a public meeting.”



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