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The new economic authority holds its first meeting

Nick Wilson | [email protected]

The county’s newest committee – its members representing a host of government agencies – has one goal in mind: to attract and retain business and industry in Montgomery County.

The newly created Economic Development Authority, headed by Commissioner John Frey, held its first meeting Tuesday at the courthouse.

Council members left with a list of tasks considered essential to the formation of any government agency. Developing procedures, gathering information and supporting staff, building new relationships and the demanding criteria for an assistant manager position top the list.

Achieving short-term goals and completing this council will allow members to focus on their long-term goals, Frey said.

“What our goal is, and what we’ve achieved, with the success we’ve had, is to create an environment that people want to be a part of,” he said. “Current businesses and industries are staying here. New businesses and industries see this community as an opportunity for growth. It is a working group that will continue to accomplish this.

The council is made up of various elected officials, many of whom have experience in economic development.

In addition to Frey, who will serve as chairman of the board, members include: Ron Dickerson, chairman of the Redevelopment Commission; Jim Fulwider and Dan Guard, Commissioners; David Hunt, Deputy Chairman of the County Council; Tom Mellish, chairman of the county council; and Steve Loy, Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission.

County Attorney Dan Taylor will extend his firm’s services to the new board and was on hand Tuesday to provide training to members.

“It’s quite a team, I would say, with all the right people,” Taylor said. “Your job as the board of directors is to provide overall strategic oversight to the county’s economic development department.”

The board will have its own staff, which currently consists of Montgomery County Administrator Tom Klein, assuming the role of director, and executive assistant and coordinator Lori Dossett. The post of deputy director, mentioned on Tuesday, is currently being formed.

“You have staff who can study things for you and bring you information … and you can talk about it in an integrative way,” Taylor said.

While the city was invited to bring its own representation into the group, officials decided to stay separate and instead work side-by-side with the new authority.

“Just because we’re the ‘county’ economic development team doesn’t mean we’re looking at anything just outside the city limits of Crawfordsville,” Fulwider said. “We can help someone come inside the county. It doesn’t matter where it is within county lines, as far as I’m concerned. If we have a place for someone, then we’ll try to get them in here.

Frey’s comments echoed Fulwider’s, adding that he didn’t “expect this to be any type of confrontation with the city.”

“We are elected by the whole department. It is our responsibility. There will be issues that business and industry will have that the city will take a direct lead on — 100%,” Frey said.

The council must meet on the second Tuesday of each month. A special meeting to discuss his mission statement and the criteria for the assistant director position is set for 11 a.m. on March 23.