By Marty Price. Teaching primary grades for 14 years, before helping her late husband build the successful Ben Mynatt dealerships in Concord for another 16 years, prepared Grace Mynatt for the top echelon of Cabarrus County politics. Elected to the Board of Education in 1993, she served as both chair and vice-chair before leaving in 2006 when she was elected to her first term as a county commissioner from 2006-2010.
She filled a vacancy on the school board again, from 2011 to 2012 before being re-elected to the Cabarrus County Board in 2014. Mynatt, a pro in the worlds of education, economic development and country politics, says this is her last term.
“I have been on this planet for 80 years. I have been blessed to have spent half of those years here in Cabarrus County. I have watched the change, from a one industry industrial (area) to an exploding suburban community. I fear that we lose much of that ‘community’ as this occurs. I believe much of the discontent and division we are witnessing is the result of these overwhelming societal shifts.”
She just received a Lifetime Achievement Award at Business Today’s Top Women Champagne Reception at River Run in October.
Mynatt, who has served on the founding boards of civic organizations like the Cabarrus Arts Council and the Salvation Army Auxillary, says the current Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners, which supports economic development incentives, is heading in the right direction.
Mynatt sat down with Business Today for this interview:
BT: Cabarrus County is in the middle of a strong growth trend, both in the business and residential sectors. What are your thoughts on the growth you have witnessed?
Mynatt: “When I was first elected to the school board it was the same time that growth started here in Cabarrus County and it has accelerated at a faster and faster speed ever since. I am disappointed in the ‘mass housing’ developments that were allowed in the past, but fortunately, I think we have come to realize that we need to preserve some of the nature along with the growth.”
BT: You mentioned that the current board of commissioners is an incentive-friendly board that attracts new businesses. Why do you think the previous board was not as incentive friendly?
Mynatt: “The public does not understand incentives. They think we are giving away their taxes but we are not. They don’t understand the full affect of helping a company start up. The jobs and taxes generated over the long term will offset the short term incentives. Unfortunately nobody likes the incentive situation, but that is how the game is played. If you sit on the bleachers and watch, you’re never going to get in the game.”
BT: What is the key to a high-quality economic development effort?
Mynatt: “Bringing people and resources together is more important than ever. It takes teamwork between all the municipalities, the county government and the school board to help manage this growth responsibly. Question No. 1 has been, ever since I first got on the school board, how to provide seats for these kids. It has been a constant. One year we opened three schools in the same year. Every time I read about another development somewhere, I think, ‘Oh my goodness, how many children is that going to be?’”
BT: What are the commissioners looking for in businesses coming to Cabarrus County?
Mynatt: “We do look at the value of their buildings, the taxes that they will bring and the numbers of employees that they will have. Leaders should not only seek businesses and opportunities that address bricks and mortar and jobs, but to ask newcomers some important questions. We need to be asking about a business’ philosophy. What is your responsibility to the physical environment and how will you address it? Will you expect your local leadership positions to reside in our county? What do you envision as your responsibility to support non-profits and other entities that address quality of life, not only for your employees but for everyone? Do you encourage active participation by your employees at all levels in the multiple opportunities to serve the whole? Where do you stand on employee participation as elected officials?”
BT: Do you think this growth is destroying the small town feel of the communities in Cabarrus County?
Mynatt: “We can decry the loss of small town America. We can worry about the demise of the middle class. Change has come to every community large or small. But I don’t believe, that we, as individuals and business owners, should shrug our shoulders and accept these changes without a fight.”
BT: What do you think of the current board of commissioners and their role in the recent growth?
Mynatt: “We work together well. Of all the boards I’ve been on since 1994, it’s the best. I think the pace (of growth) is good. There are a lot of exciting possibilities on the drawing board that I can’t reveal at this time. We have distribution and manufacturing coming but we need more. True community is not and cannot be merely graphs and charts. It only comes from when there is an inner resolve to make things better for each and every individual.”
BT: What do you see as the next big hurdle in this growth pattern?
Mynatt: “Traffic is going to become a problem.”