By SAM TERRY
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
What started as a somewhat routine meeting of the Industrial Development Economic Authority (IDEA) turned into a lengthy discussion about the effectiveness of the body, how it reports its work, and its future operation. Five of the six voting members of the board were present; Chairman Owen Lambert was unable to attend due to illness but was on speakerphone for the duration of the meeting.
Voting vs. non-voting members
While moving through the agenda, it was suggested that the City of Cave City have a voting representative on the board. Currently, Mayor Dwayne Hatcher attends the meetings but does not have a vote.
County Judge/Executive Micheal Hale commented that “Cave City’s putting skin in the game now and they deserve a seat at the table.” The group has focused some of its efforts on the creation of an industrial park in Cave City where in the past most of IDEA’s energies have concentrated on the Glasgow area. Hale said that any change in the make-up of the board would have to be approved by Barren County Fiscal Court and the City of Glasgow, the two local governments that jointly created the group.
Chamber Executive Vice President Ernie Myers who served as IDEA’s Executive Director several years ago advised the group that when IDEA was formed in 1983 and formalized by an interlocal agreement in 1984, it was organized as an authority which is defined in Kentucky Revised Statutes.
KRS 154.50-316 regarding the establishment of local industrial development authorities states that the group is to be composed of not less than 6 and not more than 8 members.
IDEA is composed of six voting members with half appointed by the Mayor of Glasgow and half appointed by the County Judge/Executive. Over the years the body has invited other persons to be a part of the board but without a vote.
Myers also recalled that in years past, the Mayor of Glasgow appointed a City Council member and the County Judge/Executive appointed a Magistrate to serve as ex-officio members of IDEA for the term of their service. All city and county boards and commissions have a member of the respective body serving in an ex-officio capacity. Myers said that tradition changed several years ago when a magistrate was unable to attend meetings and the county leader filled in. Somewhere along the way, the Mayor and County Judge/Executive began filling the ex-officio seat rather than elected members of their respective bodies.
Myers advised that it was good that the leaders of both governments participate but that having ex-officio members appointed from each body would help build trust and understanding of IDEA’s work.
Hale commented in the discussion of the board makeup that “there’s chatter among the magistrates about continued funding for IDEA.” He added that with county revenue stretched, the magistrates are looking for ways to cut spending and one area being scrutinized is the contribution to IDEA. Both the county and City of Glasgow contribute roughly $64,000 annually to fund IDEA’s operation.
IDEA Vice Chairman Patrick Gaunce, who was presiding at the meeting, asked “what is it they want? Factories, jobs, bricks and mortar?”
“They want to see what we are getting for our $64,000,” Hale explained. “They want to see results. They want to know the day to day operations of IDEA.” In discussion, Hale reminded the board that the interlocal agreement must be ratified by each local government annually and that last year, two of the county’s seven magistrates voted against renewing the agreement.
Reporting to city and county
Scott Young, another board member, noted that anytime more people were brought to the table, understanding and knowledge is increased. “Would it be beneficial to invite Fiscal Court members and City Council members to a meeting?” He added that a strategic planning meeting scheduled for next month could be a good opportunity for local officials to attend an IDEA board meeting and learn more about what the group does.
“There’s a public perception of what we do. We’ve said it before – we need to do a better job of telling our story,” Young said. He added that the methods now being used for economic development and recruitment are somewhat different than those used in years past. Young said the board should make an effort to explain lost opportunities to both city and county officials in order for them to be informed about the challenges IDEA faces.
Board member Jim Lee commented, “I would propose that they [Fiscal Court] get a better return on that $64,000 than a whole lot of the things they spend money on.” He added later in discussion that the board needed to explain the amount of work that goes into bringing a new industry to the community.
“So, I’m hearing we need to reach out and let them know what we’re doing,” board member Jackie Brown commented. Brown stated that he felt the board was not following its current strategic plan by failing to make regular reports to both the city and county governments. “We serve at their invitation. We have a responsibility to regularly report what is being done.”
Young concurred, “We work for them.” He said “We need to effectively go back and rebuild” relationships with the local governments funding IDEA. We need to give data, not lip service.”
Chamber of Commerce President Bill Prather agreed that the city and county need someone to regularly report. “We have to be proactive in building bridges,” Prather added, suggesting that representatives from the community’s major local industries be a part of the sharing of information and ideas.
While there appeared to be little, if any, opposition to inviting city and county officials to the strategic planning session on March 10, there was also discussion of inviting those parties to a separate forum prior to that meeting. No specific plans were determined before the meeting adjourned.
Lack of regular meetings
One recurring topic throughout the meeting was the lack of IDEA having a regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Currently, the City of Glasgow website states that the group meets every other month in the boardroom on the second floor of US Bank on South Green Street. No specific day or time is mentioned.
In reality, meetings are called when board officials feel a meeting is necessary. That procedure means that all of IDEA’s board meetings are special called meetings under the guidelines of the Kentucky Open Meetings Act.
“I think this board is important enough to have regular meetings,” Hale commented. He said that by not having scheduled board meetings that are announced, city and county officials as well as the public have little chance to attend the open meetings to learn what the group is doing.
Brown agreed, noting that he has asked for several months that meetings be scheduled for a set day and time each month.
Myers reported that the board had a written policy from years ago stating that meetings would be held on the second Friday of each month at 7 a.m.
Gaunce stated that he was not opposed to having monthly meetings but that he considered the board “more fluid….more of an organic” group that should meet as needs arise when Director Dan Iacconi needs board action to help with a recruitment effort.
No action was taken on the matter.
Is it time to be reinvented?
An underlying theme that emerged throughout the meeting was the question of IDEA’s operation currently and in the future. Echoed in the discussion was the fact that the ways and means of industrial recruitment have changed significantly over IDEA’s 33-year existence. In fact, when IDEA was formed only a handful of businesses used computers, the Internet had not come into being, email was non-existent, and cell phones were a decade away from being attainable for the masses.
Young commented, “Maybe it’s time to reinvent ourselves.”
Prather encouraged the board members to involve all of the cities in Barren County, noting that each played a role in the success of the community. Suggesting even further expansion of IDEA’s horizons, he said “Go beyond the borders [of Barren County] if you really want to be brave.”
Strategic Planning Meeting
IDEA will have a strategic planning meeting on Friday, March 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Barren County Area Technology Center on the campus of Barren County High School.
IDEA Board Members
Patrick Gaunce, term expiring June 1, 2017
Owen Lambert, term expiring June 30, 2019
Scott Young, term expiring June 30, 2019
Amy Irwin, term expiring June 30, 2017
Jackie Brown, term expiring June 30, 2019
Jim Lee, term expiring June 30, 2020
Glasgow Mayor Dick Doty, serves concurrent with term
Judge/Executive Micheal Hale, serves concurrent with term
Cave City Mayor Dwayne Hatcher
Park City Council member Melody Ray
Glasgow-Barren Chamber President Bill Prather
Chamber Executive Vice President Ernie Myers