EDC gets a grade of F
Opinion by Kathryn Grosz [Sarcasm by Dale Wilson]
The Economic Development Corporation contract with Clallam County states their goal is to have 15 companies significantly expand or locate in Clallam County, create over 500 new direct jobs, and induce $75 to $100 million of investment in new facilities between 2014 and 2018. This is the end of the third year of their five year goal. To date they have failed miserably. Randy Johnson, candidate for County Commissioner, is board chairman, and Bill Greenwood is their executive director.
Recently, at a joint meeting of the Clallam County Commissioners and the Port Commissioners, Greenwood, after arriving 30 minutes late, gave a short, vague oral report and then took questions. The EDC provided a written progress report [which cannot be substantiated since everything at EDC is all hush-hush.] They say they have netted:
· $1.25 million of investment in new facilities out of a goal of $75 to $100 million. (perhaps this is the tax money Commissioner McEntire gave to the port before being voted out)
· 38 new jobs out of 500 new direct jobs promised. [unsubstantiated]
· Zero for the number/type of jobs retained due to the EDC
· Zero businesses attracted to the region.
· Zero jobs attracted to the region.
· Zero for the total number and value of new development projects facilitated by EDC.
· Zero for new investment facilitated by EDC.
This shows a complete failure to deliver on the promises in the EDC/Clallam County contract, despite years of claiming to have hot prospects in the pipeline.
[How many times have we heard “prosperity is just around the corner?”]
For 2016, the EDC is receiving $292,673 in taxpayer funds: $180,000 from Clallam County, $52,673 from the State Department of Commerce, $10,000 from Port Angeles, $15,000 from OMC, $30,000 from the Port, and $5,000 from the PUD.
[EDC has three employees; average income–around $75,000 per year.]
Port Commissioner, Colleen McAleer asked if the EDC request for public funding would be reduced given the increase in private funding from membership fees. Greenwood said the EDC considers the private funding increases a way to build up reserves and has done so. McAleer asked if they have a policy about how many months of expenses they need in reserve. Greenwood responded: “Not yet.” This implies the EDC is operating on tax dollars and saving its private funding. [For What?]
McAleer, County Commissioner Mark Ozias, and Port Commissioner Steven Burke asked about the 2017 budget. The budget projects $513,000 in income, mostly taxpayer money, yet only $353,000 to $432,000 in expenses, dependent on adding staff.
[If the EDC is fired by the county commissioners–who gets the “reserves?”]
Ozias asked how the EDC determines when to refer businesses to the Small Business Development Center located in the Port building. Most of SBDC and EDC services overlap. Greenwood answered: “Whenever it seems logical.” Taxpayers deserve a clear process in place. [Otherwise Greenwood & Co. could steer business to those on his personal Rolodex.]
Ozias asked what size businesses it makes sense to attract. The contract cites business attraction as one of the two most important program areas. Greenwood explained how “tough” it is to recruit. He then mentioned a Commerce Department study saying only 150 to 200 US companies relocate each year. [The EDC appears to have given up on that part of their mission yet are still billing the county each month as if they are performing their core functions.]
Jim Jones, Clallam County Administrator, suggested recruiting I-5 corridor businesses that have no room to expand, calling them low-hanging fruit, and suggested the EDC contract with a firm that has expertise doing this recruiting.
Greenwood said it isn’t necessary because EDC receives lists of companies wanting to move to Washington. He added, “I have worked back there for 35 years, and I do know the companies and employers pretty well and what their attitudes are.” The EDC reports zero businesses attracted to the region. [It doesn’t sound like these lists and Greenwood’s connections have produced anything.]
[Or, it could be the lingering admonition by Jim McEntire who told Greenwood shortly after he arrived at EDC, be careful what business you bring in. If they pay more than our local businesses they’ll hire away our employees.]
Commissioners asked how much time is spent on business retention and expansion. Greenwood said 90%. Yet the total new investment in facilities to date is only about 1% of the goal and the retention and expansion of jobs is only 8% of goal, two-thirds of the way through their five-year plan. [Greenwood has not given back his $1,000 per month “travel” budget even though he is admittedly doing no traveling.]
Bill Peach asked what the EDC does as an ADO. Greenwood couldn’t say. He said the EDC has “a plan” and it reports against the plan.
McAleer asked why the EDC advertising increased from $1,500 to $20,000. The EDC runs lots of full-page ads in the Peninsula Daily News and Sequim Gazette, [both foreign-owned newspapers] that either lists its business members or tells a story about a member business. Greenwood said the purpose was to make businesses feel part of the community. He said: “EDC companies tell us that they love being in those ads.” [So now the taxpayers are funding a private public relations firm for EDC members. Non-members get no mention by the EDC.]
Greenwood earlier said the private funds are going into their reserve. Private and taxpayer funds are commingled into one budget. The EDC should not be using taxpayer funds to advertise private businesses. That should be done by the businesses themselves or the Chamber of Commerce.
Add to that, the EDC budgets $5,000 to throw a lavish annual dinner party for local member businesses. One participant described the food and wine as generous and said they did not have to pay to attend. [Non-members not invited.]
Peach asked about facilitating the connection of employers to employees after Greenwood said there are 1,500 jobs available in the county. Greenwood said: “We talked about it, but without many solutions.” [What the hell are they doing over there?]
Randy Johnson, as Chairman, should have a better handle on the performance of the EDC and ensure it meets its contract requirements. If he cannot succeed at the EDC, how is he going to succeed as a county commissioner? This is a failure of leadership and waste of tax dollars.
What is also disturbing is Randy Johnson’s desire to meet behind closed doors. The EDC contract requires public reports at public meetings. But, in an email to the County Commissioners, dated September 22, 2016, Randy Johnson states: “Also at the last EDC Board meeting, the EDC committed to meeting with at least one member from each funding entity to review in confidence the companies that are being helped, the type of help, and potential new companies looking to possibly move to Clallam County. I believe this will give great insight into the functions performed by the EDC.” The EDC is supposed to report publicly, not “in confidence.” Why does the EDC want to meet in secret. [Evidently their report will not stand up to media scrutiny.] The tax-paying public expects both transparency and results. [At EDC they get neither.]