Commissioners approve revised eco-devo charter

The Marion County Commission voted unanimously Nov. 30 to accept a revised economic development charter presented by Chris Hernandez, speaking on behalf of the task force.

Commission chairman Randy Dallke said the verbiage in the original document “was hard to un­­der­­stand.”

“We wanted plain talk,” he said. “I think this revised charter will be good for the county, and the people at large should be excited about it.”

The new charter, Hernandez said, outlines the group’s focus on nine key areas: community, growth, employment, development, substantiability, environment, all-inclusive, consistency and transparency.

Hernandez talked about various economic development models, but added that research the task force did indicates more success when there is government buy-in.

Roger Holter, Marion city administrator and a member of the task force, said setting up a joint action agency can grow or reduce efforts given whatever the climate is.

“Flexibility is needed and government can’t react to that, but businesses can,” he said.

Hernandez said businesses have to react. It requires private involvement and government couldn’t allow for quick responses to economic changes.

“We feel good about the level of commitment we have seen in the county,” he said, “One of the biggest decisions for any new board is choosing the person to lead or be the face of the Marion County community.”

Change is needed

While the goals established 12 years ago are similar to the goals today, Dallke said, one major focus of the past has been to serve the small communities in the county.

“However, there needs to be a change,” Dallke said.

Commissioner Lori Lalouette agreed: “What we have been doing is not working.”

Commissioner Dan Holub said the county can’t throw the small communities un­der the bus for the sake of change.

“People have been asking for results and we don’t have a lot to show for our efforts,” Dallke said.

Lalouette said one of the county’s strengths is quality of life, and Marion County Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman has done a good job promoting it.

“But the view needs to be expanded to include business and community development,” she added. “Those areas could be a good fit for an economic development board.”

Hernandez said the task force has avoided looking back.

“We don’t know anything about 12 years ago,” he said. “We were given a task to do and we are looking internally and looking forward for movement.”

Jim Hefley, task force member, said the economic development task force would look at improving all Marion County towns—there would be no losers.

“The Marion County community would be all-inclusive,” he said.

Holter said the task force is about looking forward and seeking to serve all the population of the county, including students.

“Marion County has 12,208 people, 5,000 households and 1,338 students,” he said.”

Charter details

The following is a description of the nine areas within the charter.

• Community. “In order to achieve growth and prosperity, we will promote collaboration and unity throughout the Marion County community.”

• Growth. “To ensure prosperity for all people within the Marion County community, we agree that last growth and prosperity is the top priority in government, business and education.”

• Employment. “We will aim to increase employment opportunities in the Marion County community by recruiting employers and employees to grow the community.”

• Development. “We will work closely with established businesses in the Marion County community to aid in the development and expansion of their organization.”

• Substantiality. “In order to maintain lasting growth, we understand that this is an ongoing, long-term effort where we must make continuous improvement.”

• Environment. “All efforts with respect and protect our natural resources for present and future generations.”

• All-inclusive. “All communication, programs and efforts will be respectful of all persons in the Marion County community.”

• Consistency. “All marketing efforts will be clear, coordinated and consistent in communicating the benefits of being a part of the Marion County community.”

• Transparency, confidentiality. “We will communicate our efforts to the public without betraying the trust and confidentiality of business owners.”

The newly revised charter presented by Hernandez was endorsed by the commissioners.

Russell Groves, a member of the economic development task force, attended the meeting.