City, IDC look to future

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Members of the Cassville Industrial Development Corporation attended Monday night's city council meeting to ask the aldermen to consider creating a new economic development coordinator position at the city.

Jon Horner spoke on behalf of the IDC and asked that the council seriously consider the staff addition.

"One thing the IDC has been looking at is focusing more time and energy on economic development," said Horner. "We've grown without an economic development position but now we think this position is needed for the city. We strongly feel for our community to move forward this is an important tool."

The council and IDC were in agreement that Cassville would benefit greatly from hiring an economic development specialist but differed on how the position could be funded.

The IDC suggested that the council use interest from existing UDAG funds to help fund the position. IDC members also said the private corporation would be willing to use the interest income off its assets to subsidize the economic development director's salary for one to three years. Together, the interest income from the UDAG funds, which currently total around $550,000, and the IDC would total approximately $16,000 to $18,000 a year.

Horner said the salary for an economic development director could range anywhere from $40,000 to $55,000.

Alderman Pete Landstad and City Administrator Mike Hayslip both proposed that the city use a portion of the principal of the UDAG funds to underwrite the new position. Hayslip suggested creating a sliding scale arrangement where the city would fund a greater percentage of the salary from general revenue funds over several years.

Horner said the IDC was not in favor of using UDAG funds for anything other than "concrete" infrastructure-type projects to entice business and industry to Cassville.

"We don't think it would be a good idea to tap into the principal to fund the position," said Horner.

Landstad said that paying the salary for an economic development director who would be in charge of attracting jobs to the area seemed like a good use of the funds. He also indicated that the city had not budgeted for this position, and if the city had to rely on general revenue funds for the salary, it would be several years before money would be available.

"We want to do this and I firmly believe we should move forward on it right away," added Hayslip. "But right now, there is no money in the general fund for this position."

Mayor Holle concluded the discussion by sharing her opinion that the city and IDC shared the same goals for Cassville.

"I'd like to see us come together and unite on this," said Holle. "We look forward to working on this with the IDC and developing a strategy that's best for the community."

Mike McCracken, a member of the IDC board of directors, agreed with Holle's opinion that the city and IDC could work together to find a way to create and fund an economic development position.

"I think there's a compromise in here somewhere," said McCracken.

Plans were then made for city officials to attend an Aug. 14 IDC meeting to discuss a possible compromise.

Before the IDC presented its proposal to the council, city attorney Don Cupps provided aldermen with an overview of the history of the UDAG funds.

According to Cupps, the federal grant funds were secured back in 1989 to entice George's to the Cassville area by using the funding to help finance construction of a poultry processing plant in Butterfield. The grant totalled approximately $600,000. The money was loaned to George's and paid back to the city.

"The understanding was the funds would be kept by the city and maintained as the UDAG account," Cupps said. "These funds were always to be used for industrial development. Over the years, the amount of the funds has gone up and been spent down and gone up and spent down.

"Always before we had to raise money to attract industry by soliciting funds from businesses and individuals in the community interested in economic development," added Cupps. "Now the city has the funding available through the UDAG funds to provide land or utilities as an enticement to industries or businesses interested in relocating without having to go out and raise it."

Cupps cited several examples of how UDAG funds have been used in the past. The city utilized the funds to purchase land for the south industrial park and then to extend utilities and build a road to serve the site.

Mayor Tracy Holle said the city had been working hand in hand with the IDC to find ways to make sure Cassville remains progressive and innovative.

"The city agrees with the vision the IDC has in wanting to move forward," said Holle. "We want to work in unity to grow this community."

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