About 35 people attended the first-ever annual meeting and membership drive for the Washington County Economic Partnership, which is the newly created economic development group for the county. There are about 40 members in the non-profit organization now.
Board member Dustin Rogge told those in attendance, who ranged from business owners to farmers, that the group has met with several businesses in the county since forming last summer and is looking into ways to help some clients with things including moving or installing fences or powerlines or applying for grants or loans.
Rogge said that the group is still in its infancy and has been meeting every few weeks to establish by-laws and meet with potential clients.
The group was formed to create a public and private alliance dedicated to raising awareness of economic development through education, advocacy, sponsorship and outreach.
“There’s a need to keep the people we have and bring people back,” board member Derek Bruna said of why the group was created.
He told the group that there is a lot of funding available for the economic partnership or small businesses, and the group hoped to be able to help interested businesses acquire money through those funding channels in the future.
Rogge said the application process for some of the money available to entities including the economic development group or small businesses is “tricky to figure out.”
“There are lots of programs out there for those wanting to start or expand their business,” Rogge said. “We want to attract people to the county, but we also want to help businesses expand.”
He said one of the services the economic development group may provide clients is to help them fill out applications for various forms of funding.
Those at the meeting were told that the Board of County Commissioners gave the economic development group its initial funding last summer, and the group will periodically report back to the commissioners.
Membership dues as well as funding from the county will be used to grow a nest egg that can be used to help businesses with things including interest-free loans.
“We want to be there for everyone big and small,” Bruna said, adding that the group is still deciding what it means for people to be a client of the economic partnership.
Other board members for the group are Gary Edgar, Mark Uhlik, Garrett Stewart, Jay Holle and Denise O’Dea.
During the meeting the group’s website, wacoeco.org, was unveiled. The website is compatible with mobile devices, and people can search for Washington County jobs on the website. People with job openings were encouraged to contact a board member or Chris Meyn, of Hanover, who has been hired by the development group as the project manager, so that the job can be added to the website.