The Tahlequah Regional Development Authority approved a shared professional services agreement with the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce during a June 29 meeting.
Board Chairman Mark Gish said he was happy with the amended agreement, which states TRDA will provide its director of economic development TACC's specific goals for 25 percent of the director’s working time.
Mayor Sue Catron voiced her concerns about the tasks detailed for the new director.
“Just reading through this, this looks like it is a comprehensive list of what a Chamber director has been doing with the budgeting and staff oversight pieces,” Catron said. “If they are going to accomplish all of this in 25 percent of the amount of time, I was just concerned with how in the world they could do this in the time allotted to them.”
Catron said the agreement doesn’t specify the recruitment of businesses or industries, other than to the industrial park.
“I looked at the budget and there’s no money for any economic development pieces there. I really came today because I’m concerned about the economic development piece of this,” said Catron.
Gish said the TRDA director would be in charge not only of recruiting tenants for the park, but also retail efforts.
Trustee Anna Knight, who is also on the TACC Board of Directors, said she wasn’t sure why exhibits – focused on administrative direction, organizational management, strategic planning, marketing and public relations management, and networking and community engagement – were included in the agreement.
“We were sitting down and outlining what TACC had been doing and what comes over to the TRDA, plus the job description used for TRDA,” said Knight. “Recruitment of businesses to the community is something TRDA will be doing – that, and starting with a retention plan with the businesses that we have that are struggling right now.”
Knight explained those duties are in the agreement, and the budget would need to be amended after someone is hired for that position.
“At one point, we had created a document for the Chamber director, and how much time they are spending on each,” said Knight. “When we segregated these duties out, we segregated out only for the hours of what the person would do per month.”
Catron said she didn’t see a lot of change in what would be considered a full-time job, and the explanation for an economic director was vague.
“I was really concerned about '75 percent or better' is supposed to be economic development. It’s not reflected on this [document],” said Catron. “Some of it is going to be hard for a single individual to do. Like, enhancing the website — if they can use some of the chamber staff to do some of that, it might be possible. I just saw a whole lot of administrative stuff here rather than actual economic development actions.”
Catron said TACC is necessary for the community, but the growth of Tahlequah has relied on economic development.
Catron tried to persuade Gish into housing the new director at the Tahlequah Municipal Armory, where she has moved the mayor's office.
“The second office there in the armory is still available, if you’d like to house the person someplace other than in the Chamber. It’s across the street from the Chamber,” she said.
Gish said he would prefer the newly hired director to have accessibility to the Chamber, and vice versa.
“I think it would probably be OK, or best, to keep them in the Chamber office. We just don’t want them getting caught up the in the day-to-day activities all day, every day,” Gish said. “I don’t think TRDA’s concern is so much about what the Chamber wants to do under this agreement, provided that they don’t intrude more than 25 percent at the time on this person.”
Knight made a motion to approve the agreement, and Trustee Josh Hutchins seconded.
Trustees approved a $320 invoice for round-trip mileage to Community Growth Strategies Founder Jim Fram.
The board gave its nod to the TRDA budget for fiscal year 2021.
Trustees Randy Merciez and Paula Mutzig were absent.
The next Tahlequah Regional Development Authority meeting is July 15 at 5:30 p.m.