Here’s the latest on the bid to move economic development from the Rome Floyd Chamber to yet another development authority filled with appointees from the city and county commissions. Expanded reports follow:
- A special called Joint Commission meeting of the Floyd County Board of Commissioners and the Rome City Commissioners is set for Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 8 a.m., to discuss economic development. The meeting will be at the Fire Administration Building, located at 409 East 12th Street, Rome, Georgia. The meeting is open to the public. Agenda
- A special called meeting of the Rome Floyd Chamber’s board of directors is now set for 8 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5. The reason: Finding out why the chamber’s executive committee pushed a plan that had yet to be discussed by the chamber’s board of directors, violating the chamber’s bylaws. That memo was one of two presented to both commissions as the immediate vote of support was being pushed.
- Coming Monday on Hometown Headlines. Panic, power and a purpose — how a confluence of two wrongs (panic government, abusive ‘power’) — have ignited a sense of purpose about Rome/Floyd County’s economic development potential and emerging leadership potential. Commentary in The Druck Report.
- A proposed budget for the economic development push approaches $357,000 a year, including a director’s salary of $130,000; an employee working with existing industries, $65,000; and $40,000 administrative assistant — before benefits. Also included: $10,000 in business travel; $8,400 car allowance; and $1,000 for advertising (likely promoting the region in magazines and other media).
- Also troubling: The chamber does not possess a copy of the executive committee minutes from Oct. 25 and likewise never saw the memo sent to city or county commissions about that meeting until posted on Hometown Headlines.
- Now pending: A joint city/county commission meeting, perhaps involving the Rome/Floyd Development Authority which wants “jurisdiction” of the proposed city/county economic development department. The county is asking why the city has so many questions — and the city probably is asking just the reverse. Minutes from the county’s Nov. 13 meeting show Commissioner Wright Bagby made the motion to approve The Big Switch with a second by Commissioner Allison Watters. The board voted 5-0 with apparently no discussion based on the minutes.
- Throwback Thursday: Longtime area residents are flashing back 30 years to a time when industrial development and recruitment was a tangled mess of egos and self-importance, a troublesome confluence that led to Rome and Floyd County adopting the chamber-governed economic development push relatively free of political influence.
Remembering how we got to the chamber model in the first place: Several people familiar with the messy turf wars back in the late ’80s recall when appointees ran the community’s recruitment efforts, a period when there was a chamber of commerce with little to do and an industrial development authority that was funded mostly by contributions from the city of Rome and Floyd County. There was a chief recruiter who answered to the governments directly or indirectly. A prospect interested in locating here did what most normally did — contacted the chamber of commerce — only to be handed off to the industrial authority and a new round of confusion amid other issues.
That all changed when industrial development — through continuous funding battles and ego brawls — finally was folded into a one-stop shop known as the Chamber of Commerce. Gone were territorial fights, city vs. county disagreements, personnel issues, conflicts of interest and the like. Longtimers recall some hurt feelings at the time but likewise salute the strong achievements here since the days when politics got in the way of the community’s future.
They’re now asking two questions: Why go back to the days of a divided rather than all-in concentration on business development and, no. 2, why haven’t those pushing for the change researched why the political model failed here three decades ago.
The $357,000 question: That’s the amount of money needed to operate this new economic development agency based on early review by City Manager Sammy Rich. Salaries alone (before benefits) take up $235,000 and that might be substantially too low because the $130,000 salary for the executive director is thought to be too conservative to match the skill sets needed. The other question is funding: The county contributes $120,000 to the chamber each year and the city, $80,000. Where would the rest come from? (Perhaps existing industries which, according to the first draft of The Big Switch, was to remain with the chamber). Plus: What would be left to support the weakened chamber other than membership dues?
A look at Rich’s draft budget shows:
Insurance Group Health $30,540
Workers Compensation $1,440
Social Security $14,570
Office Supplies $1,600
General Operating $300
Technology Equipment $1,000
Small Tools $0
Service Contracts $2,200
Gas and Oil $0
R&M Internal $0
Prof Serv Medical $100
Prof Serv Legal $1,000
Prof Serv Other $300
Utilities Electrical $1,400
Utilities Telephone $2,000
Utilities Natural Gas $0
Utilities Water and Sewer $100
Garbage Collection $80
Dues & Subscriptions $2,000
Business Travel $10,000
Training & Education $3,500
Vehicle Allowance $8,400
Total Economic Development $356,688
- Director of Economic Development $130,000.
- Existing industries liaison/project manager $65,000.
- Administrative Assistant $40,000.
Who speaks for the chamber — and why? An issue troubling some members of the chamber of commerce board of directors is how and why the executive committee bypassed them in basically blessing the gutting of key chamber operations — economic development. As the chamber bylaws state, only the board speaks for the chamber. The outcome of the Oct. 25 executive committee meeting was unknown by some board of directors until it all hit the proverbial fan Nov. 13.
So if the executive committee’s endorsement of the change is deemed invalid as it happened outside of required procedures, what does that mean to the County Commission unanimous vote to approve The Big Switch? And how will it impact the City Commission’s possible upcoming vote. And is this part of the reason the concept was kept from published meeting agendas and pushed for a quick vote by both commissions?
That’s why we asked the chamber for minutes from the Oct. 25 vote and the original copy of the memo sent to city and county governments for review Nov. 13. The problem is: The chamber was never given the minutes or a copy of the memo.
We hope to get some answers at the Dec. 5 special called meeting of the chamber board.
What type of economic model is dominant in Georgia: You’ll find a split decision throughout the state when it comes to models used for economic development (chamber vs. government). Here’s a list provided by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Click models.