By Trevor Busch
Representatives of at least one municipality are questioning the role and purpose of the region’s Joint Economic Development Committee (JEDC) due to an alleged lack of direction in achieving professed goals.
At the June 18 meeting of Village of Barnwell council, JEDC committee representative Coun. Darrell Turner expressed doubts about the value to the municipality of JEDC membership moving forward.
“I don’t know where they’re going with this,” said Turner. “I go to the meetings, and there’s a lot of people there, but there doesn’t seem to be any direction, at all, on the Joint Economic Development Committee. It just seems like there’s no direction on where we’re going, or what we want to get out of this. I can give you a report at the end of the day, but there seems to be more discussion on job fairs and tourism.”
“I thought we joined the JEDC to look at trying to bring business and industry in, and trying to enhance and entice businesses to come to our communities. Maybe I’m out to lunch on what this economic development committee is for.”
An economic development website project the municipality had previously made a cash contribution for through the JEDC has now been postponed indefinitely, according to Turner.
“None of that has happened. They’re still developing. Because they didn’t get the grant, nothing is really happening.”
During its Jan. 28 meeting, the JEDC discussed recent layoffs in the region and passed a motion for Community Futures Chinook to organize a job fair to bring employers and job seekers together in the region. There is no set date for the event yet, but it has been tentatively scheduled for late summer or early fall of 2015.
“At the last meeting, and I see our meeting this Thursday (June 25), there’s one agenda item, and it’s a job fair,” said Turner. “That’s it — you gather 20 people together into a building, and there’s no direction.”
The job fair event is intended to assist local businesses in filling staffing needs, local residents looking for employment, and raise the profile of the JEDC in the region.
CAO Wendy Bateman suggested a lack of concrete results from the JEDC might be due to the reluctance of members to submit items for discussion.
“Is there a call for agenda items? Maybe you need to suggest some.”
Mayor Eric Jensen acknowledged Turner’s concerns and expressed frustration about a lack of direction with regard to the JEDC.
“Chances are you might not be the only one feeling that on there,” said Jensen. “Some meetings are more effective and better than others. Hopefully — considering what they’re trying to accomplish — you’d think it would be a little more clearly defined, roles and parametres, and more clarification on the purpose of that committee and what its focus is going to be. Maybe we’ve just misunderstood.”
Turner voiced the opinion that some of the goals of the JEDC might not align effectively with the Village of Barnwell.
“They’re requesting money again to hold this job fair. We don’t have employers in the village of Barnwell, other than small businesses. They’re looking at bringing in exhibiters, colleges, and stuff like that for this job fair. It doesn’t really affect us. We pay our money and we get nothing out of it, other than going to a meeting every few months. I’m sorry — I’ve got better use of my time.”
Following discussion, council voted unanimously (4-0) to provide a letter of support for the job fair and per capita funding of $55. Coun. Jane Jensen was absent.