County considers funding position



October 10, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Allen County commissioners discussed giving $15,000 to Iola Industries in order to help create a new economic development position.
The county’s contribution would be the third leg to funding the position.
Iola Industries is ponying up $15,000 as is Iola, approved by Iola city council Monday evening.
The position would be created in partnership with the Thrive Allen County organization. Jim Gilpin, secretary with Iola Industries, said the company has needed to include a non-profit aspect to Iola Industries. He said instead of creating a new non-profit group, he and David Toland, executive director of Thrive, have decided to use Thrive’s non-profit status as an asset for Iola Industries.
Gilpin said Iola Industries has a need for the position, especially to deal with the organization’s “dozens of properties” in the county. He said the new position would deal with leases, rental agreements and inquiries.
Toland said the new position, under Thrive, would be a great asset for developing economic progress in the county. The position’s duties would include creating marketing strategies, creating and maintaining community profiles, coordinating business information tours and responding to local business requests. The position would most likely be part-time, working with companies on an as-needed basis.
The overall idea is to support the community and give businesses the attention they need to be successful, Toland said.
“How do we provide the tools to help our local businesses grow?” Toland asked.
Dick Works, county commissioner, questioned the position, asking if economic development could be provided through the Chamber of Commerce or run by volunteers. He said he has worked with local economic development groups in the past, and they have not seen much progress in local business.
“We have been hard-pressed to find any successes in the past 10 years,” Works said.
Gilpin said a paid position through Iola Industries and Thrive would give the attention needed to economic problems in the county.
Toland estimated there are 250,000 square feet of vacant industrial property in Allen County. He said the new economic development position could assist local and incoming businesses find optimal space for their needs.
Toland and Gilpin both agreed Thrive is prepared to handle the extra workload. The non-profit organization would not bring additional staff to fill the position, and responsibilities would be distributed among their current employees. He said his goal has been to set up programs that will eventually carry their own momentum, and Thrive’s objective is to be the catalyst for those programs. With this philosophy, Toland said Thrive has an opportunity to devote some of its attention to helping the local economy grow.
Gilpin said Iola Industries has realized the need to expand their focus from Iola to the entire county, and has been doing so for the past several years. He said the new economic development position would not be solely for the benefit of Iola, and he believes Thrive’s county-wide effects are a testament to that fact.
Gilpin said the position would be set for one year. From that point, Thrive Allen County and Iola Industries would meet with all funding parties to evaluate whether to maintain the position.
County commissioners seemed positive about the proposal, but requested additional time to discuss the matter.
In addition, commissioners approved a $374,710 bid made by public works to replace a blower and flare system in the county landfill gas system. Perennial Energy, based in West Plains, Mo., was selected and will make improvements to the system later in the winter.

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