When Morrisville Action was conducting its background research for the endorsement for the District 2 Seat, we already knew a lot about T J Cawley from his previous unsuccessful bid for Morrisville Council. In researching first-time candidate Vinnie Goel, among much positive information, we found a lengthy list of endorsements of him by Morrisville officials and community leaders. But one endorsement caught our eye and we wanted to know more. So we asked local entrepreneur Bob Butler to tell us why he actively supports Vinnie Goel.
Apparently Bob Butler was a founding member, along with Vinnie Goel, Harold Weinbrecht (Cary’s current Mayor) and prominent local leaders, of the City of Cary Economic Development Commission. Previously, economic development was the sole purview of the Cary Chamber of Commerce, which was primarily focused on growth. But Cary leaders saw in the early 2000’s, as the town was reaching its natural limits to growth, that its final “build-out” had to focus on a more balanced growth plan. Cary felt they needed their own separate Economic Development Commission, at the same level as say Planning and Zoning, to direct its economic future. Developing that growth plan was the job of the Cary Economic Development Commission.
Butler supports Goel because, “I had the pleasure of working side-by-side with Vinnie Goel for nearly 5 years when I was the Co-Chairman of the Cary Economic Development Commission in the early 2000’s, a time when Cary faced many of the challenges now facing Morrisville. Vinnie’s calm, decisive leadership, professionalism, and deep understanding of the most complex community issues was a huge asset to the Commission. He has my unqualified support for bringing his vast experience to the Morrisville Town Council.”
Butler, Goel, Weinbrecht, and others on the Commission knew that if Cary was to have a high quality of life and a strong sustainable financial base when the rapid growth inevitably came to an end, they had to get the final town build-out plans right. Making a major investment in experts, commissioning in-depth studies, and by listening carefully to the wisdom of many community leaders, the Commission realized that they had to shift the focus away from high-density multi-family residential and large commercial development as the engine of the town’s finances.
The Commission learned, and it has since been proven in Cary, that while high-density and large commercial developments generate the most short-term revenues for a town, they also generate the most long-term costs. As long as a town is growing rapidly, focusing on high-density residential and large commercial enables a town to kick its financial worries down the road. Using a 5-year outlook, high-density residential and large commercial is revenue positive for the town. But using a 15-year outlook, high-density residential and large commercial is significantly negative in net revenue for a town. The result of developing using a longer planning model is a much better sustainable net financial position for the town in the post-rapid-growth era.
Butler shared an interesting example of the change in thinking in Cary. With a heavy reliance on Goel’s technical insights, the Commission worked to change the development plans for Cary’s Regency Park area from large warehouses and apartments to low-density single family residential. The result has been the development of one of Cary’s most successful neighborhoods, with beautiful parks, a showcase amphitheater, and wonderful tax base providing sustained positive net revenue for Cary.
Surrounded by other towns with no place to grow, the situation in Morrisville is even more immediate and absolute than it was in Cary (which can still grow westward). In the past decade, Morrisville has gone from a mix of 2/3 low-density single family and 1/3 high-density residential, to the exact opposite, 1/3 low-density single family and 2/3 high-density residential.
According to Butler, although the Town’s finances may not look critical yet, that’s because the Town has been funding itself largely with the upfront revenue from the short term benefits of rapid growth and all the costs of high-density large commercial development have not yet hit home. A triple A bond rating is a hindsight metric and one would be amazed how fast these high ratings disappear never to be seen again with even a small change in the balance of a town’s revenues.
Morrisville’s rapid growth is coming to an end and now is the time for a town build-out plan that will deliver sustainable long-term high quality of life and a tax base for sustained positive net revenue for Morrisville. Goel’s Cary Economic Development Commission experience, many years on Morrisville’s Planning & Zoning Board, advanced engineering degree, and small business experience is exactly what Morrisville needs on the Council right now.
Bob Butler lives in Morrisville, is an economic development advocate and digital publisher. He was a Chief Operating Officer of the global publisher LexisNexis and is currently the CEO of ThinkerMedia, a national digital publisher in Morrisville. He has no business interests or dealings with the town. His regional economic development experience is not limited to his work on the Cary Commission and he knows the practical side of economic development. Butler is arguably the person most responsible for LexisNexis locating its Software Development Center of Excellence in the area, which currently provides 385 local jobs and is on track to expand to 500 highly paid jobs ($96,000 annual average) in the next few years.