Anytime the public’s money is spent, there needs to be heavy scrutiny to ensure the funds are being used wisely.
When the director of The Partnership for Economic Development in Douglas County gave his yearly update to the Roseburg City Council last week, he discovered it was his turn to be scrutinized.
Two Roseburg city councilors made it clear to Alex Campbell they were unimpressed with his efforts to bring new business to Roseburg.
Roseburg contributes $50,000 annually to The Partnership, or one-quarter of the agency’s budget. It’s one of 19 entities that fund it.
The councilors’ pressure gave Campbell, who was hired in 2011, a chance to illuminate what he’s accomplished. The report he prepared for the council did that as well.
Campbell reminded councilors that The Partnership’s goals extend beyond alluring new companies to Roseburg. It’s also designed to retain existing businesses and help them expand, as well as support collaboration among local government and business.
He was able to point to four businesses aided by The Partnership that added employees in 2013: North River Jet Boats, the Swanson Group, FabForm and M&D Enterprises. Expansion of the Swanson Group’s facility in Glendale is underway and employment is ramping up at its Roseburg plant.
The sole new business recruited to Douglas County by The Partnership was Malcolm Drilling in Drain, which added 10 jobs, or 20 percent of The Partnership’s goal for 2013.
If a grade were given based on the percentage of new jobs, it would be a failing grade, as one councilor pointed out. The reality is our country’s overall job growth is less than desirable. And Roseburg is vying with every other city in the country to try to bring new business to town. With that kind of competition, Campbell has one of the tougher jobs in America.
We’ve heard plenty of complaints over the years about the incentives given to new companies to locate here when existing businesses would like support to help them grow. So, we’re pleased to see some attention given to those Douglas County businesses that already know they want to be here.
The Partnership also is studying the feasibility of building a college in Roseburg to train workers in health care fields. In addition, local entrepreneurs benefitted from a conference and the opportunity to compete for funding from the newly established Roseburg Area Angel Investor Network.
It’s important to remember that The Partnership was formed to bring together the scattered and sometimes competing economic development initiatives across the county. Simply consolidating the efforts of four major organizations that worked on economic development was a wise move, and likely reduced costs.
We can understand wanting to see more tangible results from The Partnership, but the council should be satisfied the money spent is worthwhile.
Without The Partnership’s efforts, economic development in Douglas County could be worse.