Councilors debate new economic commission

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Of the Keizertimes

Plenty of questions remain regarding a proposed Keizer Economic Development Commission (KEDC).

Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, has been working on the development of the commission. The commission’s name was originally going to be Business Advisory Council, but was changed due to the negative connotation of BAC.

Brown said the idea behind the commission is to improve communication between the city and the business community, without duplicating work done by commissions such as the Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR) and Marion County Economic Development Advisory Board, as well as Keizer’s Economic Development and Government Agency (EDGA).

“Specifically, this new committee would be envisioned as a network of communication between resources and talents within the City of Keizer, with an objective to identify, address and use these resources and talents in the specific pursuit of job creation and retention,” Brown said while giving an update at the Dec. 16 Keizer City Council meeting.

As a part of the Economic Opportunities Analysis done over the past couple of years, it was found only one in seven employed Keizer citizens actually work in Keizer.

While other communities have such committees, Brown noted the variety.

“There is no real clear kind of pattern we could say works,” Brown said. “Each community adapts for its own needs. They are driven by local economic policies. We are trying to find what the scope of this committee would be. We want to focus our efforts on job creation and job retention, hopefully raising the kind of jobs we have.”

Brown proposed having the commission meet quarterly, or more often if deemed necessary. There would be 11 members: a city councilor appointed by the mayor, two Keizer Chamber of Commerce representatives, two business leaders appointed by the council and six citizens appointed by the council. Terms would run for four years, without term limits.

Mayor Lore Christopher wanted to see a trial run.

“I think it’s a good idea and worth our time and the time of the businesses, but I wonder if we could set it up as a pilot committee,” she said. “We could review it in a year and if it’s not worth our time, it goes away.”

City Attorney Shannon Johnson had an alternative.

“The easier way is to make it a task force, which would expire in a year and could then become a regular committee,” Johnson said. “The work you’re proposing, I think the business community wants and all will benefit from it.”

Councilor Marlene Quinn opined nine members would be preferable to 11, while council president Joe Egli expressed concerns.

“I’m really struggling that the commission is supported by the city,” Egli said. “The city will be at arms’ length, but we shouldn’t be doing anything. It would be a self-led group. So we’re giving business owners a meeting once a quarter to run their plans. SEDCOR has staff assigned to do work. We can’t do that; we don’t have a business development director.”

Councilor Kim Freeman also had doubts.

“To me, there’s a red flag on adding another committee,” Freeman said. “It feels like a duplication of groups like SEDCOR.”

Brown anticipates the subject will be brought up again at the Jan. 21 council meeting.

“We are all going to seek out the economic leadership in Keizer and have individual conversations to hopefully get a sense of issues that are important and a willingness to serve,” Brown said.

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