Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz has trouble seeing a need for a county economic development director.
This week, First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said he would like the county to hire a “point person” to work with business prospects.
Schatz said he and Brinker do not necessarily agree on the need for the county to hire an economic development director.
More pressing needs for the county are pay raises for existing employees and making sure the health department is where it needs to be with inspectors, Schatz said.
It is better to fix what’s broken before buying new stuff, Schatz added.
Brinker agreed that raises for existing employees and making sure the health department has adequate inspectors should come before hiring an economic development director.
However, just because there are other county needs should not preclude him from following up with a campaign goal to hire an economic development director at some point, Brinker said.
An economic development director could possibly pay for itself with the grants and jobs the position could secure for the area, Brinker said.
But Schatz noted that the county does not have its own industrial park. If the county had an industrial park, hiring an economic development director to oversee it might make sense, Schatz said.
As the county stands now, Schatz said he wonders what benefit the county would gain from hiring such a person.
Brinker said he foresees a county economic development director working with cities, the Industrial Development Authority and regional organizations to bring jobs.
The person does not have to be full-time to start off and could even work a few hours a week initially, Brinker said.
Schatz said he is not opposed to staying open to the idea of hiring an economic development director. But he is not looking for it to happen anytime soon.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer could not be reached for comment on the matter.
Industries typically locate around cities where the infrastructure is already in place, Schatz said. So instead of the county having its own economic development director, it may be best for the county to just support the cities in their efforts, he added.
The county can assist the cities with economic development by continuing to show support for Enhanced Enterprise Zones, which are areas where businesses and industries can get tax breaks, Schatz said.
Working with the cities on the ongoing effort to expand the Highway 47 corridor between Washington and St. Clair is another way the county can show support, Schatz said.
In the end, any jobs brought to local cities benefit the county as a whole, Schatz said.
As far as giving current employees raises next year, Schatz said he is not ready to say that will happen. While sales taxes are up this year over last, the gains are not much compared to the cost of giving employee raises, he said.
Schatz said he wants to give employees raises but at the same time does not want to make promises that can’t be kept. At this time he said he is maintaining a conservative stance and waiting to see if the budget will support raises next year.
Brinker said he thinks there is a good chance employee raises can be given next year, but he does not want to make any guarantees.