By Kelley Atherton
Del Norte County may soon have a new economic development director to promote business growth and help spearhead efforts to improve the airport and harbor.
Funding for the position is being sought by members of the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority, which includes representatives of the City Council, Board of Supervisors and Harbor Commission.
For the first year, the EDA wants to hire a consultant and find a permanent director later.
EDA members met this week to define their vision for economic development, primarily at this stage a completion of basic infrastructure improvements involving the harbor, the airport, the sewer system, U.S. Highway 199 and broadband Internet.
In the long term, the vision involves generating businesses and commerce growth.
Now EDA members are looking for someone to help make that vision a reality.
EDA Chairman David Finigan, a county supervisor, said that recently the authority has mainly approved loans for local businesses. But that, he said, is not the authority's main purpose.
The authority's purpose is to figure what kind of economic development the community needs and how to do it.
"The Tri-Agency re-examined and realized what the community was talking about and what they wantedthe needs that should be met," Finigan said.
The county government once had its own economic development director, but that is a job the EDA should direct, he said.
After the workshop, commissioners said they grasped what their role was as a board. Now, they are figuring out how to achieve their goals.
Single point of contact
"You need an individual to pull things together," said County Administrative Officer Jeannine Galatioto. "Someone who is an expert in the (economic development) field."
Executive Director for the Crescent City/Del Norte Chamber of Commerce Reweti Wiki reiterated Galatioto's statements that this is an important first step.
"This is challenge number onegetting a person with their eye on the ball," Wiki said.
Before Wednesday's meeting, Galatioto, Wiki and Crescent City Manager Eli Naffah met and outlined the job description. Wiki said that they decided for the first year it would be advantageous for the EDA to contract a consultant and then hire an executive director later.
However, a proposed budget must be approved by the three governments before the EDA can contract services. EDA members decided to meet again May 20 at 4:30 p.m., after city, county and harbor officials have discussed the EDA budget earlier at their respective meetings.
The EDA's proposed budget includes $90,000 for a consultant.
What the job entails
The EDA's top priorities will continue to be the harbor, the airport, a sewage treatment plant, Highway 199 and broadband Internet, said EDA member Kelly Schellong, also a City Council member, at Wednesday's meeting.
Harbormaster Richard Young said that it would be beneficial to have the EDA help find "the means to make (the harbor) happen."
The state Office of Emergency Services has estimated that repairs to the inner boat basin could cost $15 million. OES will pay about 75 percent of the costs, but the harbor district has to come up with the other 25 percent, about $4 million.
The EDA members intend to become the single point of contact for economic development. In addition to hiring a full-time employee, they want to rent a storefront in Crescent City to be the place to go for economic development.
"The next step is to implement our plans," said EDA member Mike Sullivan, a county supervisor. "We have no person to coordinate plans or to help organize."
Finigan said that in the past, executive directors for the EDA had difficulties because they didn't know what their responsibilities were or who they were working for.
"The identity crisis is over," Finigan said about nailing down what the EDA is.
The new executive director will have an action plan and a set list of priorities to work on, he said.
"You want someone to ask specifically, What do you want me to accomplish?'" Galatioto said to the board.
Hiring an economic development consultant for the EDA will be one step. Getting more money to actually help facilitate development will be the next, which is something the job entails doing. Finigan said the EDA wants to eventually become financially free of the city, county and harbor by having its own budget and finding sources of revenue.
Priorities in place
On Wednesday, commissioners and others attending an EDA workshop identified what they want to see in place in three to five years to fulfill their vision, which includes:
Developing an airport industrial park
Completing improvements to the harbor, the airport, broadband Internet, wastewater treatment plant and Hwy. 101 and 199
Constructing an airport passenger terminal
Developing a comprehensive marketing program for the region.
Creation of an economic development project. Possibilities include a boardwalk, harbor dredging, welcome center or tourism museum, more consistent broadband Internet service, a teen center, underground utilities and expanding the college.
The EDA should be the place to go to help finish these projects and develop new ones, its members said.
"We've found our focus and we're not slowing down," Finigan said. "It's exciting to have a full focus that we can communicate with the community. We're going in the right direction."