Meeting during a work session Monday night, it was the consensus of the Great Bend City Council to amend the Great Bend Economic Development Inc.’s bylaws to expand the GBED Board from five to seven members, and enter into a cooperative economic development effort with Barton County on a one-year trial basis.
The GBEC was created when the city split its economic development efforts from the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, creating a separate, public/private partnership. The board is made up of council members, chamber representatives and various leaders in the community.
GBED Board member Mark Calcara said the larger board would could spread the workload and be more diverse.
Under the plan, a selection committee would pick members on a staggered basis for three-year terms.
The terms are now two years, and the selection process is split among the city and chamber.
But, the biggest change would be the county-wide effort, he said.
There was once a county eco devo body, “but that didn’t work quite as well as you would have thought,” Calcara said. There were turf wars among cities and other problems.
However, he said county commissioners have met with GBED board members on a couple of occasions, broaching the subject of working together.
Calcara said his board was honest and put down some stipulations. Key among these was keeping Great Bend at the focus, since it is the economic engine of the county. Each community would be responsible for its own economic development efforts with GBED acting just as a resource.
Should there be any squabbling among the county cities, it would be the County Commission that would handle it.
“We’re seeing good things happen,” he said of work in Great Bend. They don’t want to jeopardize that. “It went well,” he said of the conversations. They agreed on the three main objectives – communication, accountability and results.
“All boats rise together,” Calcara said. All the towns share in the successes.
There were questions about funding. The city is funding GBED $250,000 this year,and some on the council asked what the county planned to do.
This is why City Attorney Bob Suelter recommended there be some sort of contract among the parties, outlining commitments and responsibilities.
“Our goal is to make our area grow,” said GBED President Sara Hayden. She understands the Great Bend emphasis, but said she’d fight for businesses wanting to open anywhere in the county because we are all in this together.
“This is not going to solve everything,” said Ward 2 Councilwoman Jolene Biggs, who serves on the GBED Board. “But, it’s worth a chance.”
“I agree,” said Ward 1 Councilman Alan Moeder.
The proposal will come before the council as an action item at a future meeting. It would just be for one year with the understanding the partnership would be reevaluated then.