Role of the Development Authority
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The activities of the Mineral County Development Authority are regulated and restricted. In many cases, what the development authority can do and what it must do are determined by legal covenant, by contract, or by convention. The most basic of these rules is the West Virginia Code. The development authority exists as an arm of the county government under the laws set forth under §7-12 (Chapter 7: County Commissions and Officers; Article 12: County and Municipal Development Authorities). The rationale for the creation of development authorities and the main tasks that they are to undertake are outlined in §7-12-2 of the State Code:
The purposes for which the authority is created are to promote, develop and advance the business prosperity and economic welfare of the municipality or county for which it is created, its citizens and its industrial complex; to encourage and assist through loans, investments or other business transactions in the locating of new business and industry within the municipality or county and to rehabilitate and assist existing businesses and industries therein; to stimulate and promote the expansion of all kinds of business and industrial activity which will tend to advance business and industrial development and maintain the economic stability of the municipality or county, provide maximum opportunities for employment, encourage thrift, and improve the standard of living ofthe citizens of the county; to cooperate and act in conjunction with other organizations, federal, state or local, in the promotion and advancement of industrial, commercial, agricultural, and recreational developments within the municipality or county; and to furnish money and credit, land and industrial sites, technical assistance and such other aid as may be deemed requisite to approved and deserving applicants for the promotion, development and conduct of all kinds of business activity within the municipality or county.
The law also discusses the ability of the development authorities to own property, incur debt, and undertake other activities to encourage and promote economic development. Many of these actions are tasks that the County Commission cannot (or cannot easily) undertake directly because they do not have the legal authority to do so. It should be noted that the development authority is not a constitutional office or mandated activity. Thus, its local funding is solely dependent upon what the County Commission deems it can spend after funding other offices at levels required for their operation. Furthermore, the development authority does not make general governmental decisions; it can aid the County Commission and provide service to it, but it does not always have the final “say” on many matters related to community and economic development. In fact, the development authority has only one employee and must depend on a “working board” and partnerships (formal and informal) to accomplish its overall mission. Finally, the development authority is not charged with doing overall planning for the county, only planning for its development activities and its operations. Creation of a comprehensive plan is the responsibility of the Planning Commission, whose work must then be adopted by the County Commission. In Mineral County, this occurred most recently in 2011.