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EDA gets windfall from Industrial Foundation

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By Ben Carlson

The Lawrenceburg-Anderson County Economic Development Authority's budget swelled from a mere $35,000 to more than $1 million last week when the privately held Industrial Foundation voted to disband and hand over its funds.

The decision, which was approved with a 3-2 vote by the foundation, means it will turn over an estimated $1.2 million, giving the EDA a large cash infusion to help attract industry and jobs to Anderson County.

Judge-Executive Steve Cornish announced the decision during last Tuesday's meeting of the Anderson County Fiscal Court. On Monday, Cornish, a de-facto member of the EDA, said the funds will be used to promote economic development, but that nothing specific has been discussed.

Attorney Jerry Springate, a member of the Industrial Foundation since it was formed in 1985, said the time was right to hand over the funds it had accumulated over the years.

"We have accomplished our purpose," Springate said. "We declared victory and decided to turn it over to the [EDA]."

Foundation members Springate, John Perry and John Rippy voted in favor of transferring the funds.

Bob Thompson, also a founding member and the foundation's president, said he and member Dave Disponett voted against the idea.

"I thought we were making as much progress as the EDA," Thompson said. "They have had the same opportunities we have had."

The Industrial Foundation has been a key player in bringing several businesses to Anderson County over the years. In 1985, it sold $1,000 bonds to raise capital, which it used to purchase the land that became its industrial park.

About a year ago, the foundation sold the remaining portion of its land to Copart, an auto salvage company located near YKK and Anderson Packaging.

Thompson said it was Anderson Packaging that really helped get the industrial park going.

"We gave them the land if they'd stay in business for 10 years," Thompson said. "They're still there."

Thompson, who was named to the EDA's board of directors after the vote to disband, said the foundation's books are in the process of being audited.

Although Cornish says no decision on how the EDA will use the money has been made, Thompson said he hopes it will be used to attract businesses and industry.

"I'd like to see them do what we've been doing," he said. "I wanted to hold onto the money so we could buy some property to attract new businesses. It's kind of like that Cialis commercial - you have to be ready when the time is right."

Thompson said he also urged the EDA to be "frugal" with the money.

"I want to see businesses and economic growth in Anderson County, not just restaurant-type things, but something with good employment."

The fiscal court voted unanimously last Tuesday to appoint Thompson to fill one of the two additional seats on the authority.

Cornish said during the meeting that he anticipates that city government will also endorse the agreement and appoint another former Industrial Foundation member to the EDA.