I would like an opportunity to respond to last week's article on the front page of all Tama County newspapers titled 'Supervisors hear pros and cons of economic development budget'. I appreciate the news media for taking the time to be at the budget meeting and report on the presentation, although I am curisous as to why out of 20 department budget meetings this is the only detailed report.
I would like to clarify some of the facts that were presented and expand on them in hope that you, the taxpayer, further understand the role and services that have been provided by Tama County Economic Development.
First of all, TCED is made up of and run by appointed representatives of all 12 cities in Tama County, the Mesquawkie Nation and the three board members of the Tama County Board of Supervisors. The role of Economic Development Director is to facilitate corporate access to resources to expand their presence in the county and bring buyers and sellers together, not to directly sell businesses to new buyers.
As reported, the TCED operational budget for 2011 is $163,868. Not reported is the fact that the financing request to the Supervisors is the same as it has been for the last three years, namely a total of $105,000. The rest of the money comes from the 70 plus local partners, as well as business services provided by TCED. Also in the budget is another $200,000 plus that is flow-through money that does not come from the Tama County tax payers. This includes tourism, Tama County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Barn Quilts, Tama County Entrepreneurship, Tama County Great Places and the Tama County Community Foundation. The largest share of this $200,000 is the share given to the Weiting Theatre in Toledo, a grant coming from Vision Iowa as a result of participation in the Tama County Great Places scheme, which was initiated by TCED.
It has been said by some that TCED Director Linde Roelofse should spend more time seeing local businesses, of which there are more than 2,000 in the county. The TCED Board feel it is more important for the director to concentrate on producing new business and addressing the needs of those that have asked for help, than to go around the county making cold calls. We the Board felt that part of EconDev could be handled by the local City Boards' representatives. All county businesses are contacted through email and mailings.
With regard to this, here is a list of ED communication activities during the past year: 66 Scientific industry surveys with major influencers of our economy, 41 regional group meetings, 195 local individual contacts, 23 regional individual contacts, 54 one-on-one contacts with prospects, 3,000 email responses to contacts along with over 50,000 media contacts through websites, Twitter, Facebook, newsletters, and various communications through pamphlets and media.
Supervisor Dan Wilkins asked where the $10,000 tourism money came from as he didn't believe the taxpayer money should be used for tourism No tax dollars go to tourism, as all of the money is raised by their committee. However, some TCED office time is spent on tourism activities. Tourism is a part of EC Dev. I know that when the tour buses and cars from other states stop here in Gladbrook, and other towns in the county, they are spending money in our Main Street stores. Ask these businesses if that income is important to them.
It has also been said that Tama county business and sales tax revenue has continually fallen. Here are some facts. In 2010 there were 18 new business start-ups, and according to the Retail and Service Industry taxable income nominal sales for Tama County the following figures are available:
Source: IRS year end
In my book, 4 out of 5 years increase is growth, not loss.
Amy Doyle was quoted as saying her bosses didn't know who Roelofse was. I find it hard to believe that a major Toledo business with several employees doesn't know who the director of TCED is, since she has been in the position for 4 years and is located in Toledo. Communications are a two-way street.
Dan Wilkens was also quoted as saying he couldn't count how many negative contacts he had in regards to TCED. This may be true in Wilkens' case but in mine the opposite is true. I also believe that TCED would not have over 400 local citizens contributing their time and over 70 partners contributing their money if they did not believe as I do in the importance of Tama County ED.
As I have said earlier each city has a representative on the TCED commission. In 8 of the 12 towns attendance is 90 percent, along with two of three supervisors. Please ask these individuals for their opinions on the value of TCED and their thoughts for its future.
Keith Sash, Tama County Economic Development board member and Mayor of Gladbrook.