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5:27 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Hed Lines: BCEDA sounds like MCEDA, but it's different

The Mohave County supervisors voted in June 2001 to sever ties with the Mohave County Economic Development Authority.

MCEDA, once an economic and political powerhouse, has seen its ship sinking since the supervisors' decision.

Meanwhile, an organization with a similarly sounding acronym is emerging from obscurity in Bullhead City for opposite reasons: the Bullhead City Economic Development Authority.

BCEDA's star has been rising since the City Council in Bullhead City voted Nov.

6 to award a contract to provide economic development services for the city.

Under the contract, the city pays BCEDA $125,000 for the first fiscal year – ending next June 30 - $215,000 for the next year and $225,000 for the third year, said Toby Cotter, the city's public information officer.

Both BCEDA and MCEDA may have been established around the same time several years ago, chairman Leigh (cq) Verley (cq) said.

He said BCEDA's founders established the authority because the city offered little in terms of major employers at the time.

Officials from BCEDA and MCEDA maintained contact with each other, "but we were not connected in any way," he said.

Like the former board president of MCEDA, Henry Varga, Verley is a certified public accountant.

However, he and Cotter explained that the similarities end there.

BCEDA originally operated with scant funding, relying on using transient occupancy taxes – from overnight accommodations – to attempt to recruit businesses, Verley said.

"We were not real successful because there weren't that many dollars," he said.

Verley said BCEDA used to serve in an advisory capacity to the city, with its members meeting monthly with city staff and Bob Riley, the former economic development director.

Riley recently joined Kingman 2005 Inc., the economic development arm for the city of Kingman and the city-owned Kingman Airport and Industrial Park, in a similar capacity.

BCEDA's contract with the city sprung from a retreat conducted in July at the Mohave Community College campus in Mohave Valley, Cotter said.

The City Council, local business people and representatives from city hall, county government and the state Department of Commerce attended the retreat, and economic development was on their minds.

"From that, there was a great deal of discussion about economic development, and really the process," Cotter said.

"Everybody agrees and still agrees that we are in a very rapidly growing community with a great deal of potential.

With our potential, everybody agrees that we need to do economic development.

We need to be attracting new business and working with the development."

He said city officials formed a committee to develop a public/private partnership, and committee members met twice a month from August through October to prepare a game plan or formula for how the city would work with BCEDA.

Those discussions led to the contract with BCEDA.

One of the major points of the agreement is the establishment of an administrative committee of seven members whose first task is to recruit an economic development director.

The administrative committee members would be empowered to hire and fire the director and work with that person on the budget and the day-to-day affairs of the office.

He said the City Council appointed two of its members to serve on the board: Franz Bruck and Jack Hakim.

"The city has a great deal of oversight," he said.

BCEDA's meetings also are open to the public, unless board members discuss negotiations with companies, Verley said.

BCEDA members understand that the city is BCEDA's number one client and main supporter, Cotter said.

I called up MCEDA's former executive director, Bill Goodale, to find out whether he knows about BCEDA.

He now sells real estate.

While being unfamiliar with BCEDA, Goodale said he would support "anything that promote economic development in this county" because residents need good jobs.

Goodale parted company from MCEDA a month after the county cut off its funding.

Meanwhile, County Manager Ron Walker is working on a regional economic development strategy.

I asked Cotter whether Bullhead City offers any lesson for county government.

"I don't want to say there is any lesson here," he said.

"The city has the luxury from being able to watch and learn from other economic development agencies, and I think we have learned from a lot of place like Lake Havasu City."

Ken Hedler is the county government/politics reporter for the Miner.