Pott County Eco-Dev Corp. wants to expand

By The Mercury

The Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation wants to restructure.

Director Bob Cole proposed a new PCEDC structure to the County Commission Monday, one which would allow procurement of private funding and expansion of the board of directors to better represent the diverse economic interests of the county.

“There’s only two of us and, if I may say so, we get after it most of the time,” Cole said of the two paid employees of the corporation. “But there’s a lot we can’t do because we don’t have the resources.”

A recently completed strategic plan cites a number of proposed improvements to the county’s economic development effort, but lack of resources precludes their implementation, Cole told commissioners.

“If this planning document we just finished ever gets implemented, it’s going to make a big difference for Pottawatomie County,” Cole said.

Among the improvements cited in the plan are the need for a new technology park; building relationships with Kansas State University; hiring a person to work with small businesses in the county; training a workforce specific to the needs of county manufacturers; and an increased emphasis on tourism.

“I happen to think tourism is an economic development resource for Pottawatomie County,” Cole said. “I think there’s a huge opportunity for heritage tourism, but there’s no money to develop things like this.”

The PCEDC proposed expanding the current 10-member board to 21, with the added membership selected by current board members, which are appointed by the County Commission.

Commissioners balked at that much board dilution, however, and suggested a board of perhaps 15 members, all appointed by the commission.

“I want to work with you, but we have our taxpayers to consider too,” Commissioner Stan Hartwich said. The PCEDC currently receives $170,000 annually from the county.

Expanding the board and allowing private donations to the PCEDC might also give the impression that money could influence the board’s makeup and decision making.

“They want to increase the number of directors, broaden the base, and get private money into the corporation,” County Counselor John Watt told commissioners. “You may have the impression that you could be selling a directorship position, to be very blunt about it.

“It may be an illusion or it may not be. That’s an issue you need to think about, discuss and address,” Watt said.

There would also be the potential for concentration of influence on how private contributions to the PCEDC were spent. A private investor would naturally want input on how that investment is spent, he said.

“I’m not sure how you get around some of those issues,” Watt said. “That’s probably a fact of life. You have at least the potential there for concern.”

“I don’t want to sell board memberships,” Cole responded. “I want people on our board who care about their community.”

The PCEDC was formed in October of 1987, as a not-for-profit, non-stock corporation. The board comprises 10 persons — three appointed by county commissioners from each of the three commission districts, and the 10th a representative of Westar Energy, which owns and operates Jeffrey Energy Center in Pott County.

If the commission agrees to a restructuring, it would have to amend three documents which govern the PCEDC’s operation: the articles of incorporation, the bylaws of the corporation, and a 1991 resolution which created the committee, according to Watt.

“These articles were put into place 25 years ago,” Cole said. “That’s a quarter of a century and a lot has changed in a quarter of a century.”

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