Committee puts standards on EDC

rpulley@lsjournal.comJune 11, 2014 

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    quality jobs a year is one measure of success that could be imposed on the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council

A Lee’s Summit City Council committee has forged ahead to recommend including performance standards in a contract with a private group it funds to promote growth of the city.

It disregarded a consensus that representatives of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council thought was reached regarding the issue.

During the past year the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council has been under fire by some council members for what they perceive as a lackluster performance. Councilman Bob Johnson and others have championed coming up with criteria for determining whether the LSEDC has earned the about $250,000 the city pays it each year for its programs.

During the months of criticism, LSEDC President Jim Devine, the executive director, decided to retire. The organization has been looking for a new director and considering ways to revamp its mission.

A public service agreement between the LSEDC and the city is to be considered by the full council its June 19 council meeting.

The LSEDC and City Council had a retreat last month to discuss directions, where among other items, the Kansas City Area Development Council shared its own scorecard with both groups.

Councilman David Mosby decided using similar numbers could serve as performance measures and called a meeting of his subcommittee June 4. It proposed adding standards to the upcoming agreement with at 3-0 vote, with Mosby, Derek Holland and Allan Gray voting yes, and Rob Binney, a member at that time, absent.

Brad Cox, chairman of the LSEDC said, “This has been direct conflict with the consensus reached at the retreat between the city council as a whole and the economic development council.” He said the next step they had decided was a future meeting to set goals together.

“We are going to continue in that process to set goals together with the city council and the city, so that we have community goals to advance economic development in Lee’s Summit,” Cox said.

Cox said the council has yet to adopt the committee’s recommendation, so it will work with council as a whole to as to what the measures will mean or even if they remain.

Under the committee’s proposal the LSEDC would need contribute to creating in Lee’s Summit:

$2.5 million more dollars of payroll compared to the prior year

at least 50 new quality jobs within the city

$6 million in development or redevelopment

A quality job would be defined as paying at least $49,000 a year and include health benefits.

The goals were derived from the LSEDC’s 2011-12 annual report, which says it provided assistance for an average of $60 million of new capital investment, 500 new jobs and 160,000 square-feet of new buildings over the last 10 years.

The figures “came straight out of their book,” Mosby said at the meeting.

“I think these are very reasonable and very attainable,” Holland said.

During the meeting, Mosby and other members noted that the committee earlier in the year was asked by the full council to create a set of performance measures for consideration.

Holland asked City Manager Steve Arbo how the public service agreement had been negotiated between the city and LSEDC in the pasat. Arbo said the agreement had become boiler plate.

“There hasn’t been a serious overhaul of the document for many, many years,” he said.

The proposal for the performance measures doesn’t specifically include any penalties should the LSEDC miss the mark. The document does have a section regarding termination if the LSEDC is in default or violates its terms.

Mosby said he didn’t mean that the LSEDC “isn’t achieving” and he was following through on a directive from the council in August 2013 to draft a set of performance measures.

Mosby said that if the LSEDC doesn’t meet the goals, the next step would be the council to discuss it when considering the next contract with the LSEDC.

“Nobody is trying to punish or make it difficult for the EDC,” Mosby said. “We’re trying to foster an environment of achievement.”

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