Council OKs economic development commission

KINGMAN - An ad hoc committee formed earlier this year to assess Kingman's economic development and marketing potential has been upgraded to a full-fledged, 11-member commission.

The Kingman City Council granted the request after the chairman of the Economic Development and Marketing Committee, Daniel Del Monaco, gave Council a presentation on the benefits such a commission could bring the city, as well as a list of initiatives his group plans to pursue.

The brainchild of councilwoman Carole Young, the committee was created in January as a means of gathering various local marketing professionals together to determine how best to attract new retail and industrial business to Kingman.

Young had previously stated her concern that the existing Economic Tourism and Development Commission had become primarily focused on tourism, and that not enough attention was being given to economic development issues, despite that commission's expansion from seven to nine members earlier this year.

The committee, which consists of Del Monaco, Christine Cerny, Bill Goodale, John Kirby and Lynne Petersen, met numerous times over the spring and summer to discuss the findings of area economic studies, as well as to meet with other regional economic development groups to discuss what kind of potential they saw in Kingman.

After five months of such meetings, Del Monaco said the committee members concluded that Kingman needed a permanent commission to better develop a strategic plan to draw business interests and jobs to the area, while ETDC could continue to focus entirely on tourism.

"We believe it would be a great benefit to the city of Kingman and the surrounding area to enact an Economic Development and Marketing Commission," Del Monaco said.

Based on the group's conversations with the county Economic Development Director Jonas Peterson, Del Monaco said he believed Kingman is in a prime position to draw businesses out of southern California following that region's economic decline. "We believe that the proposed (commission) will be able to use local businesses and utilize local citizens to help determine the best way the city of Kingman can prosper, both with new businesses and the retention of existing businesses."

Mayor John Salem commended the group for its list of 17 policy initiatives, which include developing a community visioning plan, pursuing workforce development to ensure the availability of skilled employees, re-branding the city as an economic hub, and creating a process for initiating city meetings with out-of-area developers and employers, among others.

"This is a tall order, and for you to comprise this list is a great thing, and I'm really looking forward to moving ahead with this," Salem said.

In general, Council agreed that the commission was a good idea. Several members disagreed over how the city should spend its limited funds on economic development, however. Councilwoman Robin Gordon said she regretted the previous Council's decision to abolish the city's Department of Economic Development, adding that the creation of the new commission would be a first step back toward focusing on economic development.

But Councilman Kerry Deering disagreed with Gordon's assertion that abolishing the department had been a mistake. "We had budget concerns, and that was not a benefit, in my opinion, to the citizens of Kingman at that time," Deering said. "I can tell you, it all depends on who you have in the job and what they do."

Deering added that he was hopeful the new commission could attract outside retailers to the city, but he urged caution on where the city should spend its money, given the current economic difficulties. "It's not our money, it's the citizens of Kingman's money, and they look to us to make sure we make wise decisions with their money," he said.

For that reason, Salem suggested that Council approve the commission's creation, but not the proposed budget Del Monaco had brought with him requesting approximately $600,000 in operating funds over the next six fiscal years, to be paid for with either a 1-percent increase in the city bed tax or from the city's existing ETDC fund.

Salem noted that Council already planned to hold a work session meeting on Sept. 14 to discuss whether or not to raise the bed tax. Until that meeting takes place, he said he would rather hold off on outlining the new commission's budget.

With that, Councilman Keith Walker made the motion to create the new commission and Deering seconded. The motion passed 6-0, with Vice Mayor Janet Watson excused. It now falls to City Attorney Carl Cooper to work with the fledgling commission to establish official bylaws and meeting times over the coming weeks.

While the new commission will include all five members of the former work group, the remaining six vacancies have yet to be filled. Interested parties can obtain an application from the city's Web site at http://cityclerk.cityofkingman.gov/documents.asp, or by going to the City Clerk's office at 310 N. Fourth St. The commission is currently seeking members with experience in economic development, marketing, hospital operations, finance, utility and plant operation, construction and development, business and real estate.