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  • Last modified 18 days ago (Nov. 29, 2017)

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When they get it right

Chalk up another faux pas for Marion County Community Economic Development Corporation.

Still struggling to seat a full new board and secure enthusiastic endorsement from Marion and Hillsboro, MCCEDC decided to have a stakeholder’s meeting Monday.

One problem: Peabody, the first town to come on board financially and the biggest supporter of MCCEDC as it was originally proposed, was virtually shut out of the meeting.

While numerous city officials from Marion and Hillsboro were at the meeting, there were none from Peabody, because MCCEDC scheduled the meeting at the same time as Peabody City Council meeting.

A Peabody board appointee was there, but that’s not at all the same as having the city’s decision-makers there. They’ve registered strenuous objections to having government employees and officials on the board, and earlier withheld financial support to MCCEDC until their issues were resolved. Supposed equal members with Marion, Hillsboro, and the county, their voices should be heard.

But the stakeholder’s meeting was scheduled for a day they couldn’t attend. While Hillsboro and Marion officials got their shots, Peabody’s mayor and council had to stay at home to do what they were elected to do.

On numerous occasions this past year, folks associated with the county economic development task force and MCCEDC have approached me with what amounts to a plea: “Would you write something positive about MCCEDC?”

My response has always been the same. Do something positive that actually impacts economic development and we’ll be delighted to report it.

That’s do, not talk.

When the task force unveiled MCCEDC in February, we applauded them for pushing the envelope. In March, we touted it as “a good concept, one with the possibility to shake us out of our long-held silos to marshal resources for a concerted, coordinated assault against the threats to our economic well-being.” We also said MCCEDC represented, “a new dawn for pursuing economic prosperity.”

However, it appears that here in agriculture country we have an affinity for silos, be they tile, concrete, preconceived notions, or communities.

An organization originally designed with an intent to avoid politics has found itself smack dab in the middle of them, and hasn’t yet found a way around them.

Not that they ever will. Should a new full board ever be seated, it will be filled with political appointees who in some fashion will be beholden to the governments that appointed them. To believe board members will be free agents operating in a politics-free zone is, to put it politely, naïve.

Meanwhile, our neighbors to the north, Dickinson County, have launched a new economic development group, a public-private partnership. That’s government and business both at the table running the show. They have a sharp-looking website and are advertising for a director.

Meanwhile, MCCEDC continues to talk, and people continue to cling to their opposing positions over government representatives being on the board. There’s no one at the helm as director actively pursuing development opportunities to bring jobs and businesses here, or to help established local businesses pursue new opportunities.

The most positive thing we can say at the moment is that they haven’t stopped talking. There’s still interest in working things out, although hurdles remain to accomplish that.

We’re looking forward to the day when we can report on the first new business MCCEDC brings to the county, the first new jobs it helps to create, the improvements in work force development they could lead. We’ll gladly tout its successes, if ever there are any.

Meanwhile, they talk, we report. At least we generate jobs. One of these days, perhaps one of those jobs will focus on our grand solution to economic woes. For now, all we can do is report and hope for the day when they get it right.

— david colburn

Last modified Nov. 29, 2017

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