Members of the Washington County Business Owners Association, which is the newly formed private economic development group, met with the Board of County Commissioners on Monday. The group gave a progress report and requested money from the commissioners to get the group “off the ground.”
The commissioners decided a few months ago to work with the private group, which began forming late this spring, instead of creating a second, separate economic development board.
Derek Bruna is one of the association’s board members and met with commissioners on Monday. Also representing the group were Mark Uhlik, Jay Holle and Raleigh Ordoyne.
Bruna said the group, which meets every two weeks, was needing funding, and while they were looking into soliciting membership dues to finance operating expenses, they were hoping the commissioners could also budget money for 2019. They said they needed to get a website going, and they were looking into eventually hiring an employee.
The commissioners have budgeted $75,000 for economic development in 2019 – there is also money in the economic development budget for this year that is unused – and it was the consensus of the commissioners that they would give the money to the business owners association as soon as the group’s paperwork was in order.
“$75,000 would be sufficient to give us one hell of a good start,” Bruna said. “If we can get some money now it will speed things up an entire year.”
Bruna said the group needed enough money to operate now in addition to begin building a nest egg that he hoped to grow to seven figures a decade from now.
“We want to have enough money saved up that we can land that big fish that only comes around every 20 years,” he said.
Bruna said the group also hoped to be able to acquire vacant city buildings that could be used by businesses looking to relocate or expand. The potential businesses could use the space as long as they continued to provide and adhere to their business plans.
Bruna also said they were hoping to get local bankers involved who would offer incentives to new businesses.
The commissioners said they wanted to see the economic development group solicit funding from cities, too.
Uhlik and Bruna said they have begun contacting cities to see what incentives they could offer.
Mueller said he wanted people to think beyond tax abatements for economic development. He wanted apprenticeships and the ROZ program to be considered, too.
The group also briefly discussed city planning and locations for business expansion.
“I don’t think a church has any place in an industrial park,” commissioner Gary Ouellette said, referencing a church that is now located in Washington’s industrial park.
Uhlik said educating people will be important going forward.