Concerns understood; but now it's time to GROW
On the surface, it sounds as if the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership just spent $107,000 of county money deciding how to spend $250,000 in county money, and is now looking for another $55,700 in county money to finish the job. But things are rarely as simple as they seem on the surface, and they certainly aren’t in this case.
Executive Director Jody Christensen said the original award to MEDP was spent developing a new countywide economic development program from scratch. The plan drew on outside consulting expertise and featured work by a 65-member cross-section of carefully chosen partners, including representatives of all 10 incorporated local communities. It developed visions, missions and goals under a new Grow Yamhill County brand.
Along the way, she said, GROW developed something the county has long been lacking — an economic action plan identifying specific opportunities and ways they can be realized. She said the $55,700 being sought in followup is crucial to implement that plan, which in turn is crucial for making the original investment pay off.
Ironically, Christensen has come under some heat from the city of McMinnville recently over the same program, but for a very different reason.
The county’s concern could be characterized as “whose buck for the bang?” and the city issue is “whose bang for the buck?” At least one county commissioner wants buy-in from the cities before more county money goes to the GROW project; the city worries that Christensen has forgotten she heads the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, not the Yamhill County Economic Development Partnership.
We can understand the bases for both concerns.
When spending on branding, website development and social media campaigns approaches six figures, our ears perk up as well. We can appreciate Commissioner Allen Springer’s compulsion to ask some hard questions. And since MEDP is designed to be McMinnville-centric, we also can appreciate a city council desire to probe the agency’s apparent stretch of that reach.
Here’s the backstory:
Every year, the state sends a sliver of video poker money to the counties for economic development — about $250,000 here. For a long time, counties have defined economic development broadly enough to cover virtually any need or desire under the sun.
The state got grouchy about that. Yamhill and other counties have pledged to take a more disciplined and concentrated approach with future allocations, wielding a rifle instead of a shotgun. Yamhill County naturally turned to the MEDP, the leader in the local field.
We see the bottom line this way:
The county is doing the right thing in sharpening its focus. MEDP is doing the right thing in developing a well-defined countywide program with lots of buy in. And the city will be doing the right thing if it simply stands back.
As the county’s governmental, cultural, economic and industrial hub, McMinnville is going to be a key beneficiary of development occurring anywhere in the county. What’s more, MEDP’s specialty is industrial development, and McMinnville is uniquely suited to take advantage of that, given its vastly superior infrastructure.