The future of the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation is in jeopardy, with the imminent retirement of its executive director and a proposal from the County Board’s Finance Committee to put half its 2018 funding in escrow.
CCEDC Executive Director Nancy Elsing announced, in a letter to the CCEDC’s Executive Committee, she is stepping down on Dec. 31, after 22 years in the post.
CCEDC Executive Committee Chairman Andy Ross of Poynette, said. “... it’s going to be difficult to replace Nancy if we’re only guaranteed six months funding.”
Although fully funded by Columbia County since 2013, CCEDC is not a county department, but a non-profit entity. Its purpose, as stated on its website is “to foster and encourage activities in the county that result in constructive economic development and/or result in an improved quality of life.”
Its governance includes representation from the County Board, including Ross and Supervisor John Tramburg of Fall River. However, representatives of various business sectors constitute the primary source of leadership, and most of the CCEDC Executive Committee members are business people.
Columbia County’s funding for CCEDC this year is $132,133.
James Foley of the town of Leeds, who is a member of the Finance Committee, said he initially suggested putting at least part of CCEDC’s 2018 funding in reserve and requiring County Board action to release the funds. He said the Finance Committee’s decision to hold back half of CCEDC’s funding in 2018 was based on uncertainty about the entity’s future in light of Elsing’s coming retirement.
Foley said he has never thought the county should provide full funding for CCEDC, and holding back half its funding should give CCEDC officials a chance to look for other sources of funding.
But CCEDC Executive Committee member Jeff Clark, said the organization has tried to get Columbia County businesses and industries to contribute financially to CCEDC, without success. Businesses may be willing to make one-time contributions, he said, but not contribute year after year.
Tramburg expressed a similar concern. “You have to ask whether this would happen year after year after year,” he said.
Until 2013, Columbia County funded half of CCEDC’s operating costs ($61,904 in 2012), with the remainder coming from assessments, computed by population, from participating Columbia County villages, towns and cities. That arrangement was unsustainable, Ross said five years ago, because some municipalities didn’t participate at all and others paid less than their population-based assessment.
Foley said he doesn’t favor returning to having municipalities help pay for CCEDC, because municipalities, like the county, are strapped for cash.
But because CCEDC is a private entity, he said, its funding should not come solely from the county.
That may be true, said CCEDC Executive Committee member Robert Becker of Pardeeville, but the issue of future funding can’t be addressed if CCEDC doesn’t know whether it will have any funding after the first half of 2018.
“We’ve got to know if we’ll stay in business or not,” Tramburg said.
Howard Teeter, a CCEDC Executive Committee member and president of Anteco Pharma in Lodi, said he thinks the Finance Committee’s issue with CCEDC might “go deeper than funding.”
If that’s the case, Clark said, then the Finance Committee needs to spell out clearly what it wants from CCEDC.
The immediate concern for CCEDC is the 2018 county budget.
The budget will be presented to supervisors Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Administration Building, 112 E. Edgewater St.
Adoption of the budget will be on the agenda for the County Board meeting at 9:45 a.m. Nov. 14. That meeting will include a public hearing.