Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No funding, but still some progress

Economic development groups still working on plans

Express Staff Writer

Sustain Blaine may not get funding from the cities or the county this coming fiscal year, but that doesn't mean it's drying up.

The organization, developed in 2007 as a collaborative effort to support economic development in the county, chose not to request public funding this year, with the exception of $5,000 from the city of Sun Valley.

"They understood that this is a tough year for all the cities," Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman said.

Sustain Blaine spokeswoman Diana Takvam said Sun Valley was the only entity from which the organization requested funding because it had the first scheduled budget hearing.

"It was clear from that meeting as well as discussions with the other municipalities that it wasn't realistic to expect significant support," Takvam said.

Sun Valley City Council members were critical of the organization's progress at the scheduled hearing, asking what it had achieved with the $15,000 allocated last year.

Takvam admitted that Sustain Blaine spent very little of the funds it received from municipalities last year, and that the money it did use went toward legal fees for the creation of the Sun Valley Economic Development Corp.

The corporation was created by the Sustain Blaine advisory board to implement an economic development strategy created by Texas-based consulting firm TIP Strategies. The strategy, created in 2009, is a plan to diversify and develop the county's economy.

Sustain Blaine Chair Julie Cord said the Economic Development Corp. has already received funding, including a $27,500 grant from the Idaho Department of Commerce that would go toward hiring an executive director.

"We're thrilled to get that support from the Department of Commerce," Takvam said.

As for funding for next year's projects, Takvam said the organization is in good financial shape.

"We certainly have funding in the bank," she said.

Cord said Sustain Blaine and the Economic Development Corp. are developing two major projects that are part of the Economic Development Corp.'s recently approved action plan.

The plan, approved by the corporation Monday night, will direct its efforts for the next year. Bowman, who also serves as an ex-officio member of the corporation's board, said the plan resurrected his faith in Sustain Blaine's ability to produce results.

"I was somewhat skeptical six months ago, but that skepticism has disappeared," he said.

Takvam declined to release details of the plan, but Cord said that both Sustain Blaine and the Economic Development Corp. would produce the much-called-for results this year, despite the lack of public funding.

"We are moving forward with the strategic plan and have several projects in the works," Cord said. "We are making progress."

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