Clark County commissioners approved spending $250,000 on Wednesday toward economic development efforts in the community.
Commissioners voted unanimously to authorize a $200,000 contract with the Community Improvement Corp. of Springfield and Clark County.
In addition, commissioners signed contracts to give the CIC $25,000 for both the Small Business Development Center Loan Fund and the Dayton Development Coalition.
Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the CIC, said money from the county is key to his organization. It provides resources for staffing, business retention and expansion efforts, he said.
County Commissioner John Detrick said the money helps the organizations gain and retain businesses and jobs in Clark County.
The SBDC Loan Fund provides money to small businesses to purchase real estate, equipment and resources needed to locate within Clark County. The development coalition and the CIC have played key roles in securing Code Blue, Detrick said, which has brought nearly 300 jobs to the area and Love’s, a travel center that is expected to bring 60 to Clark County.
“(Code Blue) wouldn’t have come here without the help of the Dayton Development Coalition,” he said.
Hobbs said the CIC works with other economic development groups locally and in the region.
“Economic development is not just about the number of jobs and investments. It’s as much about providing an eco-system where businesses can thrive,” Hobbs said. “It’s working in partnership with other businesses to find solutions for overall issues that impact our community. That is as valuable as 100 jobs or a $100 million investment.”
The Dayton Development Coalition was recently highlighted in a Springfield News-Sun investigation that found that the organization receives millions from taxpayers each year, but operates secretly making it is impossible to gauge how successful it is in bringing jobs and investment to the region or how wisely it spends the public’s money.
The investigation found that $64.5 million in local, state and federal funds since 2004 have gone to the coalition, the region’s primary economic development arm, and its affiliates.
But the agency doesn’t release its annual budget, conflict of interest policies or financial statements, the report said.
Clark County provided the coalition with $25,000 in funding this year, up from $15,000 in 2013. In 2012, the coalition received $8,000 from the county, according to County Administrator Nathan Kennedy.
The increase to $25,000 this year was due largely to the Dayton Development Coalition’s effort to win federal designation as an Unmanned Aerial Systems testing site.
The coalition spent more than $1.5 million in taxpayer money for the failed attempt.
But Detrick commended the organization for their effort.
“They pushed hard. They’re still pushing us hard,” Detrick said. “They put us at the table for all projects. They put us at the table for many things. It’s good representation.”
Commissioner David Hartley voted in favor of funding the CIC as well as the Small Business Development Center and the coalition.
Hartley said officials need to look closely at economic development organizations they fund and their results.
“It’s something I will be looking at. There’s a lack of transparency. Their needs to be more openness,” Hartley said, referring to the newspaper’s investigation into the development coalition.