SWEETWATER COUNTY– The Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition (SEDC) gave a partnership update at last week’s Sweetwater County Commissioner meeting, in which they went over their next steps to formalize their organization.
SEDC started as a 12-member economic development team who identified economic development needs in Sweetwater County. However, it was advanced when they created the Coalition, which is a partnership between Sweetwater County, and the Cities of Rock Springs and Green River.
Now, according to Rock Springs Chamber Business Development Manager, Kayla McDonald, SEDC is looking to advance further by creating a board to help give the organization direction and organization.
Giving SEDC Direction
McDonald said the creation of a board is the most crucial step for SEDC at this time. The board will oversee and direct the Director, and work together to ensure the goals and objectives of SEDC are being met.
Along with creating a board, SEDC is also pinning down a Director job description to create some focus for the position, which McDonald says she will be operating as.
“I will be the Director, we’re just going to change the title and make sure it has it’s own job description,” McDonald said.
The following steps will be taken to give SEDC more organization:
- Appoint 7 members to a board- Three people representing Sweetwater County, Two people representing Green River, and two people representing Rock Springs
- Obtain a 501 c3 non-profit status
- Create a job description for the Director position
- Create a fully functioning budget
- Create a business plan
- Determine cost to implement the business plan
Vacating from the Rock Springs Chamber Building
SEDC is also working to vacate from the Rock Springs Chamber building, however, this is expected to be a long-term process.
“The vacation is not so much to separate it, it’s to make people understand that there is an organization and it’s not just a sector of the Chamber, it’s an actual organization,” McDonald said.
Currently, SEDC’s budget falls under the Chamber budget. Vacating from the Chamber building, and obtaining a 501 c3 non-profit status will allow SEDC to operate under its own budget, and develop funds for growth.
SEDC is currently looking at other spaces to operate in. In the meantime, McDonald is working on getting some signage up in the Chamber building so people know it’s there, and it is its own organization.
For FY 2020, SEDC is requesting $30,000 each from Sweetwater County, the City of Rock Springs, and the City of Green River. This will give SEDC a budget of $90,000.
However, McDonald said the $90,000 budget covers special projects, and her insurance and salary, and not much is left over. To operate as a proper economic development organization, McDonald said they will need to look for more funding elsewhere.
“We’re not just relying on our entities to fund us,” she said.
McDonald said SEDC is looking into other methods for funding, such as receiving funding directly from local industries, implementing an economic development tax, or a possible mill levy.
“We’re leaning more confidently towards a tax because it’s not much and it does benefit economic development,” McDonald said.
Entity Funding History
In 2016, the City of Rock Springs maintained their funding for SEDC of $35,000. Rock Springs had been funding the organization that much money every year since 2013. In 2016, the City of Green River and the County funded SEDC $20,000 each.
In 2017, Rock Springs funded $35,000 again. Green River funded SEDC $18,000. The County funded SEDC $17,000.
In 2018, Rock Springs SEDC $40,000, as SEDC began a retail study for retail recruitment. Green River funded $25,000, and the County funded $23,000.
“This Smells Like SWEDA”
County Commissioner Chairman Wally Johnson expressed concern over SEDC, saying it resembles the Sweetwater Economic Development Association, better known as SWEDA.
“I was not a fan of SWEDA and this smells like SWEDA to me,” Johnson said.
McDonald assured the commissioners that SEDC is not SWEDA.
Commissioner Roy Lloyd said that although SWEDA left some negative impacts, the community must look at economic development. He said it’s not just an issue of bringing in new industries, but how to expand on current industries.
“Economic development is one of our most key components to what’s going on right now,” Lloyd said.
McDonald said SEDC has a plan, whereas SWEDA did not, and that is the difference.
“Their concerns with SWEDA was not necessarily mismanagement, but it just wasn’t effective. SWEDA did not have a plan. We have a plan,” McDonald said. “We’re just trying to take the proper steps to implement it and make sure that our steps are done in the right position and the right time frame and that we’re not rushing things. It’s more of a process than it is just head first, dive in.”
Cities On Board
SEDC has presented their budget request of $30,000 to the City of Rock Springs and is waiting for it to come before the council. The Green River City Council approved the preliminary budget on Tuesday.
Reed Clevenger, Green River City Administrator, was present at the commissioner meeting to share his support of SEDC’s mission. He said he couldn’t speak on behalf of the Green River City Council, however he said the council does understand the importance of economic development.
“They know this is the most critical thing we could be doing,” Clevenger said.
Chairman Johnson said considering the cities’ support of SEDC, he is willing to “go along with it for some amount of time” to see if SEDC will have different impacts than SWEDA. He suggested that a commissioner be one of the board members representing the county.