County hears proposal from eco-devo council

Tammy Ensey of Marion presents a portion of the economic-development proposal of the Marion County Economic Council during the Feb. 13 commission meeting.
Tammy Ensey of Marion presents a portion of the economic-development proposal of the Marion County Economic Council during the Feb. 13 commission meeting.
The Marion County Commission at its Feb. 13 meeting unanimously approved an eco­n­omic development plan presented by its appointed task force with a fund­ing commit­ment of $163,000 for five years.

Commission Chair Randy Dallke said that within the next two weeks some sort of funding would be in place for this year, but it might not be the full amount since no money was budgeted in 2017 for this plan.

“Change must happen,” Dallke said, “and I would like the other commissioners to stand up and thank these people who did these things for us.”

More than 12 years ago, Dallke said he remembers sitting on the other side of the table listening to commissioners at that time setting a goal for Marion County to look at county economic development.

“So that’s where it started at,” he said, “and as far as I know there might have been other commissioners involved, but the task was left to us.”

Fast-forwarding to the present time, Dallke said he isn’t sure whether he would get a Grade A or Grade F based on the decision 12 years earlier.

“I am not going there for what was done (in the past),” he said

“We are gong to look out the windshield and look forward, and do what we need to do, which is we need to grow, take a chance, and try something new.”

If nobody ever steps out of the box, Dallke added, then they will never get somewhere.

The original seven-member economic development tax force was charged with bringing a plan to the commissioners.

Roger Holter, a member of the task force, said that along with the county approving the plan, the committee also filed articles of incorporation on behalf of the commissioners.

The official name of the group is the Marion County Community Economic Development Corp., Holter said.

The plan, which met for the first time on July 6, required an internal and external team, he said.

The internal task force, Holter explained, included Jim Hefley, Jared Jost and himself, who were responsible for:

• developing and administering a business survey in the county,

• researching and defining community assets,

• completed a competitive analysis for targeted industries,

• identified occupational and industries with potential, and

• did an analysis of the impacts of the rural recession on local economics.

The external team included Hernandez, Tammy Ensey, Russell Groves and Craig Dodd. They were responsible for:

• researching economic development programs from both regional and national venues,

• determining not only their impacts, but the sustainability of the models,

• determining the scalability of economic development models,

• determining the advantage of non-profit versus for-profit models,

• researching performance metrics of various programs, and

• team visits to communities with impactful programs.

Two more members, Rod Koons and Judy Mills, were added to the committee later.

Holter said Hernandez went back to the commissioners in October asking if one more person could be added.

“With the amount of analytic work we were having to do and figuring out where we are at required an additional resource,” Hernandez said.

The commissioners approved his request, Holter said, and the group was told they could add more members as long as everyone was in agreement.

“Rod had some insights that hadn’t been looked at,” Holter said, “and with his expertise in brand building, and the tremendous job he did marketing his business (he was a valuable asset),” he said.

Judy Mills came in November.

Mills brought a perspective that was needed in order to understand the very smallest communities and what were the best ways to engage their visions and dreams for the future, he said.

Concerns

After the presentation by Ensey, Holter and Hernandez, some people listening had questions or concerns about the plan.

Cynthia Fleming, executive director of Hillsboro Community Founda­tion, said she believed it was a wonderful idea.

“I can see where it would work,” she said, “I just think that hopefully we can get everybody on board and have everybody work together as you are proposing” she said.

“I think it is what we need, and we need to move forward in the county and as a whole,” she added. “We can’t do it as an island.”

Marion County Commission Chairman Randy Dallke, holding a shovel, said he doesn’t want to be the first one to throw a shovel of dirt on this county. “If we don’t change, that is what we will start doing. We have a lot of chances to do things, but don’t make me use this thing. I want to start new things and we have an opportunity to do that.”
Marion County Commission Chairman Randy Dallke, holding a shovel, said he doesn’t want to be the first one to throw a shovel of dirt on this county. “If we don’t change, that is what we will start doing. We have a lot of chances to do things, but don’t make me use this thing. I want to start new things and we have an opportunity to do that.”
At first Hernandez said he thought about leaving Flemings comments as they stood, but he didn’t want to sugar coat it either.

“Throughout our committee that has been the biggest dilemma in the back of our minds,” he said. “I have noth­ing against Marion County people, in fact they are won­derful people, but we have built up walls over the years.”

The committee doesn’t want to tear down walls, he said, or things that are priorities.

“We want to be able to go in and out of those walls to get people talking and communicating, having people working together on a common vision because any job created in Marion County is good for Marion County no matter where the job is.”

Getting this idea cement­ed in everybody’s mind is going to be difficult, Hernandez said, and it is a deep concern, but the committee thinks it can do it.

Other groups?

Clint Seibel, part-time economic development director for Hillsboro Development Corp., said Hillsboro and Marion both have two active economic development groups to include MEDI and HDC.

“How do you see those working together and what’s the future of the locals that we have now,” he said. “They are in a sense entry points for information coming in (to the area).”

Seibel said he also said what he sees is “fantastic.”

“We have a center hub, but then we have some outer posts, and how do they work together?

Hernandez offered a scenario only for the purposes of thinking through Seibel’s questions.

“Let’s say this board is created and through their vision they come across the ability to bring in some jobs.

“It’s going to be 15-20 jobs, but its definition and role in our community fits very, very well in Hillsboro,” he said

The current structures right now are competitive, he added, and right now what’s going to end up happening if MEDI hears about it, it will want those jobs in Marion.

“HDC has got room and they are going to want it in Hillsboro, so we are shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said.

Hillsboro and Marion are competing against that which could cause the process to slow down or it cause frustration with that current person who wants to bring the jobs in, he said.

“So they end up in Hesston.”

Hernandez said he is not saying that scenario has even happened before, because the group talked about not looking in the rearview mirror.

“What if Marion County had a vision moving forward that they decided to fight those things out in a room and not to the public but within themselves?” he asked.

By talking it out, the two groups came up with a solution that was best for Marion County, and then presented that solution to the perspective employer.

“MEDI agreed it is better to go in Hillsboro,” he said. “HDC wins that one and so does Marion County.

“This is the communication that isn’t happening right now and creates competition.”

make this thing work….

What’s next

Following the commission’s approval on Monday, the committee has the next pieces of the plan in place.

“The existing board will continue to serve until the annual election in October when the commissioners place their (executive) board,” Holter said.

At this time, he said, the committee will start advertising, recruiting and interviewing for an executive director.

“We already have a meeting scheduled trying to set up a vocational educational cooperative in the area,” he said.

“The committee has some advisors willing to serve on the advisory committee to the county’s five school districts to see if we can’t get them to launch a cooperative effort basically creating a county vocational center.”

Dallke said he would appreciate Holter helping the county with funding because he knows the government side of budgets.

“There’s another person from Hillsboro and I hope (Mayor Delores Dalke) would sent Mr. (Larry) Paine over and get this rolling to help the county make decisions on amount of money for this year.

County Clerk Tina Spencer said it was OK to express support for the economic development group, but wait on the financial portion until it can be decided on how that will happen.

For more information about the plan, contact county commissioners or any of the group members.