City to give SOD $40K for development

SALEM – The Sustainable Opportunity Development Center is being designated as the city’s partner for economic development, with funding set aside in council’s budget to cover the cost.

City Council’s Economic Development Committee made the decision Monday night after some discussion on how the $40,000 budget line item for economic development should be used.

Committee Chairman Councilman Dave Nestic said he’s verifying with city Auditor Betty Brothers or city Law Director Brooke Zellers on whether the designation has to come before city council for approval. His feeling was that it didn’t require an ordinance since the appropriation was already in the budget.

Once he confirms that, he’ll meet with SOD Center Executive Director Larry Kosiba to define the scope of work expected for 2014.

During the meeting, Nestic outlined a basic direction he was thinking for an economic development service proposal. He noted this will involve assisting the city with planning, possibly investigating putting another industrial park together, keeping the web-based information vault about all things Salem known as SEED BASE updated, working on retention, expansion and attraction of business, responding to opportunities as they arise and require reporting back to the committee on a quarterly basis.

Part of the scope of work may include some specific numbers, for example the number of contacts expected to be made for a set time period.

At the beginning of the meeting, Nestic said one of the requirements he was looking at was match money from the non-profit entity of at least 50 percent to 100 percent, so if the organization received $10,000, the organization needs to put up at least $5,000 of its own money to be combined with council’s $10,000.

He said there needs to be some structure. Councilman Rick Drummond, another committee member, questioned whether council was required to ask for an RFP or request for proposal or whether the mayor would be the go-to person.

“Do we have to be the driver or the administration?” he said.

Nestic pointed out the money was in council’s budget so he felt the committee needed to do it. He said he was trying to get away from the doing economic development project by project by project. He wanted the city to have a go-to organization when something comes along.

Mayor John Berlin said in the past, he’s called Kosiba with questions or requests for assistance regarding a company that may have called city hall. He said he would be happy to continue doing what he’s been doing. As opposed to having someone full-time in the city for economic development, he said have someone out there to contact who’s looking out for economic development for the city.

He also explained that anything $50,000 or over would require bidding, but this falls under the threshold.

Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null was in attendance, along with Kosiba, Berlin and city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst. Null said all the groups have been working together and with the city involved, it’s a win-win.

Both Drummond and Councilman Brian Whitehill, also on the committee, agreed with the idea and the fact that the tricky part will be defining what the city gets for its money. Whitehill said with the quarterly review, if the performance isn’t there, changes can be made.

In choosing the SOD Center, Nestic said he could only think of two organizations in the city that could do what they were asking, with the SOD Center being one and the chamber being the other. The two entities work hand-in-hand already, but the edge was given to the SOD Center. Kosiba has worked with the city on several projects, including as the brainchild of SEED BASE and working on the Tax Increment Financing Zones on the city’s east side and north side.

“I think it’s important that the people of Salem know we’re doing something,” Drummond said.

Kosiba said he was more than willing to work with the city.