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City emails show uncertainty about Economic Development Department’s direction

City Manager Ron Foggin doesn't think a City employee has to live within city limits to do good work. (Travis Rains)

City Manager Ron Foggin doesn't think a City employee has to live within city limits to do good work. (Travis Rains)

KINGMAN – The City’s new Economic Development Department, its director, Gary Kellogg, and the work it has or hasn’t completed were topics of discussion between Councilman Travis Lingenfelter and City Manager Ron Foggin in a string of emails spanning the last few days in May.

“Economic development is critical for the City of Kingman,” Lingenfelter said Tuesday. “You look at all the things that the City does, all the services we have. The quality of life really is defined by the goods and services we provide.”

He added that an economic development department goes a long way in ensuring a City has the resources it needs to provide those services. For Kingman, a big part of that development will be determined by the airport and industrial park. He said the City’s new asset gives Kingman an opportunity to create base industries, those which export to markets outside of Kingman, infrastructure and a workforce supported by livable-wage jobs.

However, Lingenfelter wonders if Kingman’s economic development goals would be further helped along by having a director who resides in City limits. Kellogg is a resident of Lake Havasu City.

“He was always great to work with,” Lingenfelter said of his past experiences with Kellogg. “But I feel personally that the economic development director needs to be the biggest cheerleader for Kingman, and not just during working hours of 9-to-5.”

He said his ideal economic director would be out in Kingman even after 5 p.m. and on the weekends.

“I just think that’s part of championing the City,” Lingenfelter said. “I’m sure Gary Kellogg is going to do an outstanding job with the job he has as director, I just feel personally that it would be great if the person we had actually lived in Kingman.”

Ron Foggin, city manager, also believes Kellogg is doing a “great job,” so far, especially taking into account that a brand new City department was thrown his way with Kingman taking control of the airport and industrial park.

“Gary has seen that through,” Foggin said of Kellogg’s work at the airport. “I think that there’s some pressure to be all places at once, and that’s of course not possible. So I think our efforts, as we look for a permanent airport manager to run that department that we’re definitely going to look to do more concentrated work on straight up economic development.”

And Foggin isn’t of the opinion that an economic development director has to live within the city they represent. He said that throughout his career, he’s worked with employees that have lived outside city limits and it did not impede on their work ethic or efforts for the city. “And I think that’s been true of Gary,” Foggin said.

“My experience with employees is that you’re either a good employee or you’re a poor employee,” he continued. “It doesn’t really matter where you live to be a dedicated employee. I don’t think that Gary or any other employee necessarily has to live in the City to do a really great job for us.”

Kellogg doesn’t see his residing in Lake Havasu City as an issue, and said he wants Kingman to be successful in “every way.”

“For me, it’s a nonissue,” Kellogg said. “I give this job 110 percent every day, and I don’t see how where I live should make a difference.”

Foggin also said there “hasn’t been a day,” where some aspect of economic development hasn’t been discussed. But in Lingenfelter’s email to Foggin, and in a discussion with the Daily Miner Tuesday, the councilman said he would like to see more from the economic development department.

“We get a monthly report,” he said of the economic development department’s activities. “And in that monthly report, we haven’t seen economic development activities, we’ve only seen planning division activities.”

Lingenfelter described the efforts rural communities must put forth to compete with neighboring municipalities as “war.” He thinks Kingman needs a comprehensive concentration of economic development information, primary data collected by the City, and comparative cost analysis for doing business in Kingman so potential businesspeople and investors can see the benefits of doing business here.

He also believes the City needs to address talent pipelines by working with KAMMA, Mohave Community College and local high schools in an effort to increase the local workforce and keep it in Kingman.

“I want the economic development department pushing that and championing that, and knocking on doors,” Lingenfelter said. “And if doors aren’t presented, going out and building doors.”

After laying out his concerns in an email to Foggin, Lingenfelter said the performance of the economic development department would be a highlight the councilman would be looking at during Foggin’s six-month evaluation. Lingenfelter explained Foggin requested Council evaluate his performance for the City at six months and again after a year.

“What Kingman is going through right now, I think everyone would agree that economic development is one of the main things we’re looking at,” Lingenfelter said. “What he (Foggin) does in the first six months is personally going to be looking at. I’m very excited to see what he’s going to do.”

Foggin said he found nothing threatening about Lingenfelter’s email.

“I took it as it needed to be clarified in the fact that I was not aware of that, but I completely expected that to be the case,” Foggin said of his evaluation’s focus on economic development. “But expectations of the Council, I would assume would come as a directive from all of Council. So I took it as, it’s good to know.”

Kellogg will provide Council with an overview of the Economic Development Department’s activities at Council’s June 19 meeting.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” Lingenfelter said. “And I’m looking forward to hearing what they’ve been doing.”