At the last Council worksession on March 22 (we got a rare week off last week), the Council heard Thomas Clough’s (a consultant to non-profits with Horizon Associates) report on his interviews with EDA, staff and Council members (see the worksession packet). The purpose and scope of this enterprise:
A. City Council Resolution: “The Council will employ a neutral party to evaluate perceived issues with EDA process and function. The neutral party will conduct personal interviews with the members of the 2010 EDA, City Council and staff. The neutral party will report back to the Council at a worksession with findings and recommendations”
1. Not an assessment of whether Northfield should continue to have an Economic development authority
2. Not an assessment of particular economic development policies and plans.
3. Not an assessment of relationships among EDA and partners (NDDC, NEC, etc.). No interviews with leaders of these organizations.
4. Not an evaluation of particular individuals.
The findings were not a great surprise to me, but I am grateful for the summary of issues and recommendations which help to focus the Council’s next actions. It really needs to be the Council which acts next to determine whether the Economic Development Authority statutory structure is appropriate for Northfield at this time, what the mission of an economic development group (of whatever structure) would be, and a Council level determination of the goals of economic development spending (and that’s what this is about – spending your tax dollars). Until the Council acts, the EDA is just on hold.
My one problem with the report was Mr Clough’s characterization of the two economic development viewpoints. The “standard” view is straightforward – grow jobs and tax base through commercial industrial expansion. The other he called the “preservation” view which seeks “preserve and enhance Northfield’s distinctive character and quality of life.” To me, the “preservation” label plays right into the criticism by EDA members that certain Council members would like to see the town “preserved in amber” and Mayor Mary Rossing reinforced that misperception in her March 23 post-meeting KYMN interview by calling it the “no growth” group. Perhaps other interviewees did promote the Little Town that Time Forgot view, but not me. My issues are where we spend scarce resources and the physical form of growth. But you can read all about that in my last few posts.