Ford County economic development agency disbanding
PAXTON — A nonprofit organization established 19 years ago to promote economic development in Ford County is disbanding due to a lack of funding and demand for its services.
The Community Economic Development Foundation will be dissolved effective June 1, the end of the organization's fiscal year, according to the foundation board's president, Randy Ferguson of Gibson City.
Ferguson said discussions about the dissolution had been ongoing for months as a result of the continued decline of donations to support it. The organization had been receiving annual donations from the county and its cities and villages, but today, those government bodies are providing no funds, he said.
"Now it's only being funded by the utility companies, the banks, the hospital — just businesses," Ferguson said.
Since its establishment in 1994, the organization has worked to help cities, villages and the county attract new businesses and retain and grow existing ones.
The foundation's executive director for the past five years, Diane Johnson of Paxton, said the organization did a lot of good, as it was often the first point of contact for new businesses looking to expand into the area. It also has helped provide economic impact studies and other resources for use by municipalities and the county.
But a change in the cities' reliance on the organization's help led to a steady decline in funding over the last several years, Ferguson said.
"Our mayors are now more proactive," Ferguson said. "Now the mayors are getting the first phone calls (from prospective businesses). They're kind of handling it on their own."
Both Paxton Mayor Bill Ingold and Gibson City Mayor Dan Dickey said they were thankful for the work the CEDF has done.
Ingold said Paxton's city council decided to discontinue providing funds to the organization — which he said was an annual donation of $1 per resident — due to budgetary constraints "at least three, if not four, years ago." Ford County stopped funding the foundation a few years ago, also due to budgetary issues.
Dickey said his city was the last in Ford County to stop providing funding.
"I believe in the concept of 'what's good for the county is good for each community,'" Dickey said, "but when other communities are not investing ... then Gibson City's money is going to support the county, and it just didn't make sense for us.
"So we were the last man standing at least as far as donating, but it didn't make sense for us to be the only one doing it."