816 North

Clay County leaves Economic Development Council for new competitor

Updated: 2013-02-26T19:36:23Z

By GLENN E. RICE

The Kansas City Star

The Clay County Commission has ended its 40-year partnership with the Clay County Economic Development Council.

Last week, commissioners said they signed a one-year, $162,500 contract with the Clay County Economic Development Alliance. The alliance is being formed by Greg Martinette, who had previously worked as a contract marketing executive for the Clay County Economic Development Council.

“Competing to bring quality jobs to Clay County is a full-time job,” said Presiding Commissioner Pam Mason. “After a thorough review of how these economic development dollars were spent by the EDC, we were convinced Clay County could do better.”

For decades, the Clay County EDC was one of several outside agencies that received funding from the county. Last year, the EDC received about $162,000 for its work to attract businesses to Clay County keep them there.

Mason said the county needs to be aggressive to ensure it remains competitive in the two-state region. Martinette was part of the team that helped bring the Magna Corp. to Liberty, she said.

Tony Reinhart, EDC board chairman, said he and other board directors were caught off guard by the commission’s decision to end a relationship that has been in place since 1967.

“We have never had a conversation with them as to why they wanted to go into a different direction,” Reinhart said. “It is unfortunate but they are entitled to be able to do that.”

Reinhart said that in late January, the county sent the EDC a contract for their board to approve, and the organization was prepared to sign it. Then, on Feb. 5, commissioners alerted the EDC that it would not be funded for 2013.

In 2012, Clay County provided the EDC about 30 percent of its overall budget. The EDC also receives funding from area companies and individuals through membership dues and contributions.

Because it will not receive county money in 2013, the EDC will have to some spending adjustments, said Jim Hampton, executive director.

“We’re going to have to cut back on some areas but I don’t think it changes our mission in any way,” Hampton said. “You still want to go out and try to create jobs and do all of the things an economic development organization does.”

The EDC board has sent a letter to county commissioners, requesting a meeting to hear their concerns and find a way to continue its partnership with the county.

“We believe that a more thorough examination of the services provided by the EDC to Clay County and the full cost of replicating those services would have made the value of the current organization more evident,” the EDC wrote.

Mason said the Commission’s new partner would work to better market the county. It also would focus on economic development, attracting businesses to the county and retaining and helping expand those that are already there.

She said that was not always the case with the Clay County EDC. One company that left the county last year said it hadn’t heard from the EDC in years, Mason said.

“A contract with government is not an entitlement,” Mason said.

Clay County is among the fastest growing areas in the region, she said. The new Clay County economic alliance has formed an advisory group to assist in the efforts.

“The commission refuses to stand by while Kansas seeks to rob us of good jobs,” Western Commissioner Gene Owen said in a statement.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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