Dennis Stoude, Staci Kaufman, and Jon Rhoades representing the Economic Development Advisory Council, made a presentation about the OHio State University Extension economic devlopment effort Monday night at a meeting of the Judiciary and Annexation Committee of Van Wert City Council. The committee was meeting to consider whether or not to give notice to OSU Extension to end the agreement between the organization and the City of Van Wert. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
Dennis Stoude, Staci Kaufman, and Jon Rhoades representing the Economic Development Advisory Council, made a presentation about the OHio State University Extension economic devlopment effort Monday night at a meeting of the Judiciary and Annexation Committee of Van Wert City Council. The committee was meeting to consider whether or not to give notice to OSU Extension to end the agreement between the organization and the City of Van Wert. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)

BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
egebert@timesbulletin.com

City Council will not be asking Ohio State Extension to release the city from the current contract it has to work in community and economic development in the City of Van Wert. At the end of a meeting of the Legislative Committee of Van Wert City Council Monday night, Committee Chair Stan Agler declared no need for the city to ask to cancel the contract made with OSU Extension. Fellow committee member Jon Tomlinson expressed similar views, so if a vote was taken, any notion of ending the agreement would have failed a formal vote since two of three committee member votes were already committed to keeping the agreement.

The idea had been batted around City Council, that the city could give the required one year notice to end the agreement, then try to put together a different structure for economic development, assumedly with the Van Wert County Commissioners' plan. The Commissioners cut ties with OSU Extension in December and have been working toward putting together a new model under the authority of the county.

Since the commissioners left the agreement that had been in force between the city, the county, and OSU Extension, Mayor Don Farmer signed a newly re-worked agreement between the city and Extension. On Monday, the Economic Development Advisiory Group associated with the OSU Extension agreement sent three persons to the committee meeting to give background of economic development efforts in the county for the past few decades, and to give the successes of the organization in helping local efforts to grow economically.

Representing the advisory group were Advisory Group Chair Staci Kauffman, as well as Jon Rhoades, and Denny Staude. Rhoades gave the history of economic development efforts dating back to the early 1980s. A string of persons succeeded each other as no one seemed to stay in the position for a long time, causing efforts to start over when staff changed. Representatives of the city and the county approached OSU Extension about the prospect of an agreement back in 1997

Kauffman led the council members through a number of highlights of successes made possible by the OSU Extension agreement, including a 2004 selection as a Boomtown USA commmunity, the city's ranking in the top 100 micropolitan areas by Site Selection Magazine in 2007, and the establishment of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Towne Center.

Kauffman stated, "Frequently we have heard in the last eight ot nine months, we have heard that this Econimic Development Advisvory Group and this OSU agreement are not showing any progress or being responsible, if you will, and I'd very much like to prove otherwise tonight." Kauffman's list included 18 items and the optaining of almost $10 million in grants and at least another $5 million in business development grants and loans.

OSU Extension contributes annually $36,000 just in salary and benefits with additional training and mentoring included, according to Kauffman.

Most councilpersons present expressed a desire to see economic development efforts be united. In answering a question about meeting with the Van Wert County Commissioners, Kauffman said that the commissioners have mentioned interest in meeting with the economic development group, but the meeting date had been changed and that no definite date has been set, despite the fact that the economic development group's executive council has been making efforts to have such a meeting for a number of months.

Councilman Jon Tomlinson stated that he feels council's job is to uphold the contract with OSU Extension and that it is up to the advisory group "To carry out that contract. We're putting ourselves in a fight that's not ours!," he asserted. "It's up to the Economic Development Advisory Group, it's their responsibility to fulfill that contract. That's my opinion. Of all the people, and outside of college I've lived in this town my entire life, of all the people that I would trust business-wise, asking a business question or advice, most of those individuals are on this Economic Development Advisory Group."