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New eco devo entity moves forward
Applications sought for board positions
new deh city council city logos USE
Pictured is the City of Great Bend logo approved Monday night by the City Council.

On the agenda for the Great Bend City Council Monday night is the approval of the articles of incorporation and bylaws for the city’s newly formed economic development commission, known as Great Bend Economic Development Inc.

At the Sept. 3 meeting, the council voted to accept a mayoral committee’s recommendation to create a standalone nonprofit organization whose purpose would be to conduct economic development activities. This replaces the long-standing agreement the city had with the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce to handle economic development efforts.

The committee has drafted articles of incorporation and bylaws for the new entity. As a member of the organization along with the chamber, the city must approve the wording and authorize the mayor to sign them, City Administrator Kendal Francis said.

The chamber board must also sign off on the documents, Francis said. The timeline for the final approval is undetermined.

According to the plan, the new GBED will be governed by a five-member board of directors. Two positions will be selected by the council with priority given to sitting council members, two will be selected by the chamber, and those first four board members will then select the remaining at-large member.

Applications are currently being sought. They are due by noon on Monday, Oct. 21, and the board members will be announced at the Nov. 18 council meeting.

Ex-officio members will include the mayor, city administrator, chamber executive committee chairperson and Convention and Visitors Bureau director. 

The chairperson shall be selected by the board.  

A board member’s term shall be two years and renewable for one additional two-year term. If a member serves two consecutive terms, he/she must wait one term before again being eligible to serve.

The commission will hire a full-time director, the advertising for which has already started.


Background 

After several months of work, a divided Great Bend City Council on Sept. 3 approved a new economic development plan for the city to replace a decades-old model. Instead of contracting with the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, the new 501 c (6) non-profit entity will be guided by a board made up of city and chamber representatives.

On May 6, Mayor Joe Andrasek appointed a five-person committee made up of himself, Dawson and council members Jolene Biggs, Cory Urban, and now-resigned member Chad Somers to study the agreement with the chamber. The goal was to analyze how the city handles economic development.

In June, the council voted to terminate its agreement with the chamber and explore other possible options. The mayoral committee met with representatives appointed by the chamber to discuss restructuring.

However, on June 17, the council approved ending the contract with the city wanting more oversight on economic development.

At first, the committee looked at the city hiring a full-time employee to coordinate economic development. But, they dropped this idea, opting for the commission.

It was back in December 2018 that the city and the chamber approved a revamped contract for economic development services to improve communication with the chamber and require more accountability for eco devo. The old contract was drafted in 1999 when the city first contracted with the chamber and had not been changed since. The contract would have automatically renewed on Jan. 1. 

Jan Peters serves as president and chief executive officer of both the chamber and economic development.

Historically, the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development had a contract with the city to handle its economic development efforts. This involved business recruitment and retention, and workforce development.

Economic development received $153,000 this year through the general fund. That is up from $135,000 in 2017 and 2018.

The chamber made an annual funding request. The city-funded portion amounts to about a third of the chamber’s annual budget.

The money for the chamber comes from a city half-cent sales tax (generating 9 percent of the city’s revenue). The tax is split three ways among economic development, infrastructure improvements and property tax relief.


What is a 501 C (6)?

A 501 C (6) organization is tax-speak for a business association such as a chamber of commerce. Although they’re organized to promote business, they don’t generate a profit and don’t pay shares or dividends. That qualifies them as non-profit organizations, exempt from paying income tax. 

Source: The Houston Chronicle (smallbusiness.chron.com)