Monday, July 28, 2014

City, county updating contracts with local economic development council

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 12/10/2012

A “yes” vote would continue the county’s economic development services for the coming year.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on a joint agreement between the City of Ottawa and the Franklin County Development Council at its 8:30 a.m. Wednesday meeting in commission chambers, 1428 S. Main St., Ottawa. The agreement spells out the expectations of the FCDC, Jeff Seymour, the council’s executive director, said.

A “yes” vote would continue the county’s economic development services for the coming year.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on a joint agreement between the City of Ottawa and the Franklin County Development Council at its 8:30 a.m. Wednesday meeting in commission chambers, 1428 S. Main St., Ottawa. The agreement spells out the expectations of the FCDC, Jeff Seymour, the council’s executive director, said.

“What we really tried to do is identify what you expect in our relationship from us as a third-party contractor to provide economic development services for you,” Seymour said at the board’s Monday morning study session.

The agreement lists several key points the FCDC is expected to provide to the county and City of Ottawa, such as retention and expansion programs for existing businesses, actively recruiting new businesses and serving as guide and adviser to the county and city on economic development matters. In addition, FCDC is expected to provide the city and county with monthly electronic reports, as well as quarterly verbal reports on the activity of the FCDC. The reports are a means of keeping the board updated on the FCDC’s progress, Seymour said.

At least one member of the county board indicated he was happy with the work of the development group. Don Stottlemire, commissioner for the fifth district, said he was pleased with how the FCDC has made an effort to include the county’s smaller communities in its economic development efforts.

“I’m glad to see them getting outside of the boundaries of [Ottawa] and meeting with the other cities in the other communities,” Stottlemire said, adding that Seymour’s guidance and expertise is invaluable to the smaller communities in the county.

Economic development, coupled with workforce development, broadband access and job creation, is a top priority in the county’s 2012-2015 strategic plan.

In the past, Franklin County has contracted economic development services from Ottawa/Franklin County Economic Development, the previous name for the Franklin County Development Council. If the board votes to approve the new contract, which is expected, the county will pay $60,000, in equal monthly installments, the council’s services in 2013. The city also would provide $60,000 in funding for FCDC.

 The fundamentals of the agreement are essentially the same as the 2012 agreement, Seymour said, although some changes have been made to make the contract easier to understand.

“What we did is take the agreement that you sign and that the city signed in 2012 and really tried to make it a little more succinct and a little bit easier and maybe some plainer languages,” Seymour told the board members.

One significant change is in the county’s portion of funding for the contract. The council is requesting an additional $10,000 for services in 2013. The amount budgeted by the board in 2012 was $50,000. The FCDC would be required, as part of the agreement, to submit an annual budget to the city and county by May 15, including detailed line item comparisons for revenues and expenditures for the two preceding fiscal years.

The county or city does have the ability, with 30 days’ written notice, to remit payment to the council for not doing its job, according to the agreement. If the city or county issues a complaint to the FCDC, Seymour said, the organization has 15 days to try and rectify it before payment can be remitted.

Members of the FCDC board approved the agreement at their meeting last week, Seymour said.

Seymour also presented the agreement to the Ottawa City Commission at its study session Monday. The city commission is expected to vote on the agreement at its next regular meeting 9:30 a.m. Dec. 19.

As part of the agreement, FCDC will hold 10 percent of the annual contributions it receives from the county and city in cash reserves. City commissioners told Seymour Monday they would like to see the FCDC build up a war chest with those funds to aid with recruitment of new economic development.

Commissioners also told Seymour they would like to see the FCDC undergo an annual financial review, with a full audit possibly every three years. Seymour said he would work with Richard Nienstedt, city manager, to clarify language in the agreement about building its cash reserves and with regard to financial reviews and audits. Seymour said he would present the revised document to the city at its Dec. 17 study session.

Seymour said it was important to keep the lines of communication open between FCDC and the city and county governing bodies, and he would make that a point of emphasis.

“I take that to heart,” he said.

Doug Carder, Herald senior writer, contributed to this report.

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