EDC board aims for more private support

EDC board aims for more private support

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign County Economic Development Corp. has concluded it must get more financial support from the private sector if it wants to grow.

The economic development group is largely funded by the public sector — namely area cities and villages, Parkland College and the University of Illinois.

Only about 20 private-sector entities provide support, and their $80,000 in budgeted contributions doesn't come close to matching the $325,000 put up by taxpayer-funded sources.

On Wednesday, the group's board of directors decided to try to double the number of private-sector contributors over the next year.

It also adopted a draft strategic plan that outlines four priorities and three goals for the next two years.

Those goals include:

— Providing support to create 3,000 new jobs.

— Attracting $225 million in new private investment.

— Helping area companies increase their payrolls by $132 million, increasing per-capita pay to $26,000.

Priorities outlined in the plan include:

— Promoting job growth by helping new employers to come to Champaign County and existing employers to expand here.

— Providing business market intelligence to new and existing companies and connecting them with resources they need.

— Connecting businesses with education and training providers to provide a workforce with the right skills.

— Selectively advocating projects and policies important to the county's economic health.

The strategic plan will be showcased at the group's annual meeting, scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Hawthorn Suites in Champaign. Products made in Champaign County will be highlighted at the meeting.

Initially, staff talked about the possibility of raising an additional $300,000 a year from the public sector.

But when board members were asked whether that goal was reasonable, several said it was too ambitious.

Former board Chair Laura Frerichs said $100,000 seemed more reasonable, given the group was hard-pressed to get $80,000 this year.

Champaign City Council member Tom Bruno said the group shouldn't rely on the same group of donors, but go after companies "missing in action."

Frerichs suggested the goal of doubling the number of private investors. Given there are only "20-odd" private investors now, "getting to 50 doesn't seem unrealistic," she said.

Current Chair Cameron Moore said it's important to "try to get a balance among public and private stakeholders."

Without that, "we shouldn't expect any increase in public-sector involvement for the next few years," he said.

The group has a total budget of $831,531 for the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2014. Income is expected to amount to only $771,365, leaving a deficit of $60,166.

Private- and public-sector support amounts to a little over $400,000 of the income. Most of the remaining income comes from grant reimbursement and revenue.

Moore said he won't recommend how to fill the void left by the job termination of former CEO Mike Kirchhoff in June, until Moore meets with the group's nine largest funding sources.

The biggest of those is the city of Champaign. Others, he said, include the University of Illinois, the city of Urbana, the villages of Rantoul, Savoy and Mahomet, Parkland College, Busey Bank and Illinois American Water Co.

In other business:

— Deputy Director Erik Kotewa said staff made regular retention visits to Wolfram Research, which employs 550 in Champaign; EpiWorks, which employs 45 in Champaign; and Creative Thermal Solutions, which employs 40 in Urbana.

Kotewa also reported that a roundtable meeting of area manufacturers at Dart Container in Urbana drew 30 people, including representatives of area school districts who discussed how to meet manufacturers' workforce needs.

— Moore said office manager Amy Mente will leave at month's end. She and her husband are moving to Iowa, where he recently accepted a new job.

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (1):Economy

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