In a letter to the Editor published in today’s Courier (Jan 13, 2011) Hancock County Commissioner, Emily Walton, raises some well-founded questions and concerns about the new economic development plan put forward by the, once again renamed, Alliance (formally known as the GFI). Why should the County (or the city for that matter) contribute $50,000 to the economic development efforts of Alliance given the large contribution that the County makes in the form of infrastructure improvement and tax abatements in the cause for economic development? Why should the County (or the city for that matter) contribute $50,000 to the economic development efforts when the County funds the Alliance’s Convention and Visitors Bureau to the tune, on average, of 366,000 dollars per year over the last three years? Why did the Alliance decide to reject the recommendations of the Economic Development Task Force, a Task Force that the Alliance was a key member of, a plan that the Alliance just recently agreed to honor? (One question I would like to add is why all of the ridiculous and confusing name changes?)
These are all great questions and I hope to hear a response from the Alliance soon, but did Commissioner Walton go far enough? When she asked for a level of financial transparency that the Alliance is not likely to want to provide and when she commended the Alliance on its ethics training, Commissioner Walton touched on the nexus of the problem with turning over The City of Findlay’s and Hancock County’s economic development to an organization that represents established businesses; the inherent conflict of interest.
There is a baked in conflict of interest by putting established local companies in charge of recruiting new companies to locate in our community that would compete in the marketplace for customers and employees. No system of recusal or training is going to overcome this systemic issue of a conflict of interest. The only practical response is to separate the functions for promoting the welfare of established businesses and recruiting new companies to our community.
I would propose a simple and straight forward plan to meet the primary and overriding goal of improving the general economy of Findlay and Hancock County. First, the Alliance would primarily concern itself with the economic welfare, expansion and retention of its membership and other established businesses. As before, this would be accomplished with the support of local (and State) government. The role of recruiting new businesses to Findlay and Hancock County would be a function of city and county government working solely for the benefit of the community as a whole. It makes perfect sense that the city and county would pool their resources in this effort. I would also look at the current funding levels of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and ask if the community would not be better served if a major portion of those funds were redirected to the city and county’s effort of economic development. Working closely with the county commissioners and with a professional staff, the Mayor of Findlay would be the natural and proper person to lead our economic development effort. It is one of the primary jobs of the Mayor to promote the City of Findlay and the economic welfare of our Community.
See letter to the Editor by Commissioner Emily Walton: http://www.thecourier.com/Issues/2011/Jan/13/ar_news_011311_story1.asp?d=011311_story1,2011,Jan,13&c=n
See article in The Courier about economic development: http://www.thecourier.com/Issues/2011/Jan/13/ar_news_011311_story1.asp?d=011311_story1,2011,Jan,13&c=n