Trust. Teamwork. Support.
Those were some of the themes that emerged from a Tuesday work session Newton city commissioners had with the city's representatives on the Harvey County Economic Development Council. The commissioners and EDC representatives talked about their goals and expectations regarding local economic development. They agreed they'd like to have more cooperation and communicate more openly and more often.
"For our EDC to be effective, we've all got to be behind it," said EDC representative Marge Roberson.
The city of Newton is represented on the Economic Development Council by Joe Robb, Marge Roberson and Scott Koehn. All three were present at the work session.
Robb said relationships, networking and teamwork are key features in successful local economic development. He said it's also important to think on a regional level, not just local — such as partnerships between Kansas City and Newton, and the Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma and Newton.
One of the EDC's biggest projects recently has been the Kansas Logistics Park. A company has not broken ground at the KLP yet, and Koehn acknowledged it can be tough to wait as projects are developed.
"It doesn't happen overnight," he said. "It was a calculated risk, and it took some time. ... It's there, the money's spent. We need to all push (the KLP), we need to all sell it."
And while the KLP often receives the most attention, it's just one part of what the EDC does, the EDC representatives said.
"That's just one branch of the EDC," Koehn said. "There's a number of success stories that hardly get told."
"It isn't just the logistics park," Roberson added. "It's just doing business every day, keeping business here in Harvey County."
Existing companies have been expanding, and the EDC had 10 new prospects between July 25 and Aug. 21, including several manufacturing facilities, a meat processing plant and a rail project.
Koehn said it is important to grow the community and promote the development of new jobs in order to keep high school graduates in the area.
"If you're not growing, you're dying," he said.
The EDC representatives said there are few other places in Kansas where cities and counties are able to work so closely together, and Newton is building a positive reputation in the state.
"'Wow, Newton's really got it together.' ... We hear that time and again in economic development circles," Robb said.
Commissioner Glen Davis said he'd like to see new methods tried and to draw in more people and resources from throughout the community to help with EDC projects.
"We need to start thinking outside the box," he said.
Davis also recommended re-evaluating the EDC's relationship with Troy Carlson, a consultant from Kansas City. He asked if the EDC could look at paying Carlson by commission instead. Commissioner Leroy Koehn suggested the EDC ask other EDCs in the region how they structure consultant agreements.
Roberson said Troy Carlson has been part of good contacts made for the EDC, and City Attorney Bob Myers also said Carlson played a key role in the city's partnership with Kansas City.
Commissioner Bob Smyth said he would like to see more details on economic development projects and see figures of how much revenue the EDC brings into the county.
City commissioners and EDC representatives both said they would like to meet more often in the future so everyone could be on the same page and everyone could play a role in economic development projects.
"We need to figure out how to communicate with our investors — which is you," Robb told city commissioners.