EDA decision on hold
By Seth Schmidt
The possible hiring of a new Tracy economic development director has been put on hold.
City Administrator Mike Votca has informed eight applicants no interviews will be conducted, until city leaders complete an evaluation of the city’s needs. He told city council members Monday night that “all options” continue to be considered. Those options include hiring a new full-time director, hiring a part-time director, or contracting out economic development responsibilities to a third party.
“We need to decide this as an EDA board,” said council member Tam Schons, who also sits on the economic development authority.
“We need to decide,” agreed Votca.
Tracy has been without an EDA director since late January, when Robert Gervais resigned to accept another job. The council and EDA agreed to post a full-time vacancy. Applications were accepted through March 6.
EDA member Bill Chukuske said that the EDA needs to decide what the city’s economic development objectives are and how those goals can be best accomplished. After finalizing a job description, Chukuske indicated, a determination must be made as to whether the work should be done by a city or contracted employee, how many hours are needed, and what the city should spend.
“I’d like the EDA to go back and look through this and evaluate it as a board, and make a recommendation to the city council,” Chukuske said.
The EDA’s next scheduled meeting is April 17.
Votca said he felt that of the eight applicants, four were “definite” interview candidates and two others were possibilities. He felt that the delay in interview plans would not be a problem for some of the candidates.
City leaders listened to a short presentation Monday night about one of their EDA staffing possibilities.
Cal Brink executive director of Discover Southwest Minnesota Partnership explained how Tracy could contract for economic development services with the Marshall-based group. Organized in 2012, the Discover Southwest Minnesota Partnership includes the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Marshall, Lyon County, and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Brink said that a contract relationship with the nine-member Marshall office, would allow Tracy to tap into the synergy of others devoted to the economic development of the area, while saving the city money.
“It’s an opportunity to think outside the box…These types of partnerships are really becoming more common.”
Combined, cooperative efforts, he said, can be more efficient and effective, compared with each community working on the same things individually.
If Tracy does pursue a contract with the Discover Southwest Minnesota Partnership, Brink said he envisioned “a joint hiring process” for the person who would be responsible for Tracy responsibilities. The number of hours, and time spent in Tracy, would be dependent upon what Tracy leaders decide, Brink said. He pointed out that since the position on the payroll of the Discover partnership, the City of Tracy would save the expense of employee fringe benefits.
Both Mayor Steve Ferrazzano and former mayor Tony Peterson voiced support for looking further into the collaborative economic development concept. Potential advantages, they said, included the resources of a large office, cost savings, the opportunity for fresh perspectives, and the fact that there would be no long-term commitment.
“I like the fact that we can try this for a year or two,” said Ferrazzano. “I think it is really a non-brainer to give it a shot.”
The mayor said how many hours the person would be in a Tracy office, wasn’t a decisive factor. “It’s all about results, not how long someone is sitting at a desk.”
Chukuske and councilman Kurt Enderson said that Tracy’s biggest economic development issue is getting wastewater treatment improvements in place.
“The whole idea of bringing in more businesses is a moot idea until we get those (wastewater) ponds in.”
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued a moratorium on new sanitary sewer extensions in Tracy, until deficiencies in its wastewater treatment facilities are completed.