City Rethinks Agreement With Business Council
Left, Alderpersons Joanne Suomi (left) and Randy Stroik discuss the Portage County Business Council during an informal council meeting Monday nigth. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
City leaders this week say it’s time for the Portage County Business Council to start showing its results.
The council, which jointly acts as both Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation, receives an annual stipend of $35k from city coffers to support its activities. Officials from City Hall say they now expect work plans and goal outlines prior to receiving that payment beginning in 2014.
“I think there’s a lot of concern that a lot of the business council’s focus seemed to be on Chamber- related activities; business-to-business networking, golf outings and wines of the world…but that the amount of evidence of strong economic participation, really, over the past five or six years, has been lacking,” said Mayor Andrew Halverson.
Halverson said the city has seen reports relating to membership numbers and the council’s Partners in Education program, but very little relating to actual economic development.
According to city documents, the mission of the Portage County Business Council is to, “strengthen Portage County’s quality of life by promoting a business climate that encourages growth and stability. They serve as a business advocate, the point of contact for workforce development, and to provide the general public with area information.”
The mayor said the visibility of the council’s economic growth activities have somewhat improved lately, especially given the group’s involvement in assisting Skyward, but most of the information the council reports to the city is in retrospect.
“I’d like us to establish an annual work plan for them,” said Alderman Michael O’Meara. “Let them come in here during our budget deliberations and tell us what they’re going to do. They come in here every other time and tell us how valuable they are.”
Alderman Randy Stroik said he’d like to see, at minimum, a quarterly report from the council. “Though I would prefer a monthly report that’s not just focused on Portage County.”
Stroik said the city council should know specifically what the group is doing to promote economic development in Stevens Point.
“Right now our (department) directors print a monthly report, and for the city council to understand, the PCBC could give us 5-10 bullet points or some type of document that gives us some kind of accountability where if five months in a row they haven’t done anything, then we can call into question that $35k,” he added.
Alderman Roger Trzebiatowski said he’s worried the council has become more focused on social functions than economic development.
“Unfortunately, I hear more enthusiasm over the afterhours meetings- they seem to look forward more to having a few drinks to their buddies than the actual forward- moving goals and objectives as a whole,” he said.
“That’s somewhat the crux of why we need to have this conversation,” Halverson said. “I think it’s important for the taxpayers to know how this money is being spent.”
No vote was taken on the issue, which comes before city leaders again at Monday’s regular council meeting.