Now that Roger Holter has lost the interim designation as city administrator, it’s time for Marion City Council to start thinking about the economic development position. Marion needs city administration and economic development to be separate positions, and I think Holter would agree with that.
For starters, there isn’t enough time for one person to give both jobs the attention they require. Administration takes a lot of planning and a lot of managing workers. Economic development takes a lot of networking and a lot of research. If someone tries to do it all, one job will get shortchanged, if not both.
A full-time economic developer can help entrepreneurs refine a business plan, connect with funding and planning resources, and find potential partnerships. Existing businesses can benefit from a devoted economic developer, too, if they take the initiative. Having a person focused on development is also a crucial component to recruit new businesses.
One of the reasons it is so important to recruiting businesses is perception. Perception matters, and if a town doesn’t have someone devoted to economic development, companies will see that as a sign the town isn’t committed to growing businesses. It would take a golden opportunity for a business to overlook that perception. The presence of an economic development director also significantly improves the effectiveness of Marion Economic Development Inc., providing someone to take the point on research and networking.
Marion can’t afford to wait 29 months to refill the economic development position like the council did between promoting Doug Kjellin to city administrator and hiring Holter. I’ve heard from a council member that he expects a decision will be delayed until after the city elections in the spring. That’s OK, but the city should start publicizing the opening now, so the council will have candidates to consider after the election.
— ADAM STEWART