By a 7-1 vote that technically is in our history book as a 7-2 decision, the Rome City Commission on Monday agreed to an 11-year pact with Floyd County and the Rome Floyd Development Authority to oversee future industrial growth in the community. All three are pledging $450,000 each over three years — a combined $1.35 million in new tax dollars — and future assistance if needed to cover “short falls.”
Commissioner Craig McDaniel, who is one of the architects of what we call “The Big Switch” to move economic development from the Rome Floyd Chamber to the city/county/development authority formula, made the motion to approve.
Prior to the vote, Mayor Bill Collins briefly highlighted comments from the pre-meeting caucus session (not webcast) and cited some of the comments made by Ken Wright, the chamber’s Director of Business and Industry Services. Wright told the board about the chamber’s continuing successes and again questioned the need for a change.
City Commissioner Wendy Davis was absent from both meetings but was able to phone into the caucus (please see her comments below).
In his motion to approve during the commission meeting, McDaniel cited the partners’ working together on the community’s behalf, the need to continue to do so and cited the hours of meetings that have occurred to create the plan. He said there was no “quick” rush to throw it together. “Nothing is perfect,” said McDaniel. “It will always be a work in process.” (Corrected: No one used the word personal).
Voting no during the meeting was the financial watchdog of the community, Commissioner Evie McNiece. Among the last votes recorded even after a clear majority had voted yes, McNiece again questioned the lack of details. “What works best is when we have a solid plan,” she said, rebuking McDaniel’s supporting motion. That has been her point since the proposal first surfaced. She made it clear her no vote was on the contract only.
Davis, who’s in Washington, D.C., on business, posted this comment to her “Wendy in Rome” Facebook page.
“I am disappointed that the city commission likely is moving forward with a vote on the (memorandum of understanding) regarding economic development. I joined the caucus via phone. We only received notice of the vote and document late on Friday afternoon. Like the vote in January, we are being asked to approve a thrown together budget with no details and no clear plan for the operation of this new agency. If I was there, I would vote NO.”
Where to watch: You can view the city commission vote here; first go to the agenda and click item 12, City Manager. It will play the part of the commission meeting — not caucus — where the board voted 7-1 in favor of the plan. Webcast
What’s next: A vote by the County Commission during its regular meeting beginning at 6 tonight. What to expect: A fast 5-0 vote — which is what started this debate months ago.
The City of Rome, Floyd County and the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority are poised to enter into an 11-year agreement through Dec. 31, 2030 to create an Economic Development Department under the authority of the development authority. The contract is expected to be approved by the City Commission during its meeting on Monday at 6:30 p.m. and during the County Commission’s meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. It will then need to be approved by the RFCDA the following week.
The agreement makes the RFCDA and new Economic Development Department the lead body for large-scale and industrial recruiting, as well as associated marketing for Rome and Floyd County as “the unified single point of contact for such development, recruiting and marketing,” thus taking that authority away from the Rome Floyd Chamber.
You can click here to read the entire contract. Some key points:
- A initial budget of $450,188 has been set with equal donations of $150,000 each from the City, County and RFCDA. An annual budget will be submitted by the first Monday of October each year. Click here to read initial budget.
- The City and County will only fund the new department for the first three years, after which, “the funding shall shift to the Authority on a self-sustaining basis; notwithstanding the foregoing the City and the County agree to make up any short fall in order to allow the Authority to continue providing the Rome-Floyd community with these necessary Services.”
- The Payment In Lieu of Taxes Program (“PILOT”) program will continue and is the major source of cash flow for the Authority. The Authority collects annual PILOT fees from businesses and industries for the respective incentive packages to promote economic development in Rome and Floyd County.
- The Economic Development Department will still work with the Chamber but roles and responsibilities need to be formalized. “The Rome-Floyd Chamber of Commerce (the “Chamber”) continues to play a strategic role in the economic development throughout the many existing programs by promoting prosperity and growth in Rome and Floyd County for and through business memberships such as GREIA, memberships and work force. The Parties desire to continue to promote and support the Chamber, and the Authority is directed to develop a formalized Agreement with the Chamber and GREIA to specify roles and responsibilities, including working together to support GREIA and Chamber initiatives.”
Speaking of the Chamber, Floyd Commission Chairman Scotty Hancock says the county still plans to support the Chamber with it’s annual $25,000 payment, along with membership fees. The other $117,000 they were giving the Chamber for economic development purposes will now be shifted to the new department.
If approved, the new agreement will be in effect as soon as it is signed and executed by all parties. The search for a new Economic Development Director will begin immediately. Hancock says, “We have a job description ready and will move forward with posting the job once the agreement is approved.”
According to the agreement, “all employment decisions shall first be developed and recommended by the Personnel Committee of the Authority, which is composed of the Chair of the Authority, the Manager of the City, and the Manager of the County (Sammy Rich and Jamie McCord).”
And no word yet on where this new department will be housed. There was talk of converting the storage building behind the Chamber for the new Economic Development office, but those plans have been put on hold. Hancock says that building could still be used as an “incubator” location for new companies to use while other space is being readied.
The agreement states, “the Parties desire as soon as practical to locate the Authority and its staff in a suitable office space other than within the Chamber building, but until such time as such space has been located and readied for occupancy, economic development will continue to operate through the staff at the Chamber.”