2017 in review: EDP develops strategic plan, redefines board of directors

Published 2:38 pm Saturday, December 30, 2017

Editor’s note: This is one of six big stories of 2017, as chosen by The Advocate-Messenger.

2017 was a transformative year for the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership.

The quasi-governmental organization made up of partners from the public and private sectors got a new chair of its board to kick off the year; slogged through the highly technical and politically charged process of developing a long-term strategic economic development plan; adopted the new “doing-business-as” moniker of “Develop Danville;” and proceeded to pass new bylaws fundamentally restructuring its board.

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The work to develop a strategic plan actually began in the fall of 2016, but things really got going in 2017.

“We’re pivoting from the data collection — ‘what’s the consultant’s point of view?’ — to ‘what is the consultant’s recommendations?” EDP Chair Ben Nelson told members of the Boyle County Fiscal Court in February.

The EDP approved goals for the strategic plan in March and then members of the EDP and the community launched into lengthy discussions with each other and with lead consultant Kyle Talente about what types of businesses Boyle County should be looking to attract; how to improve community involvement with and support of the EDP; and what an “EDP 2.0” should look like.

The conversations were at times difficult.

Talente said in March that Boyle is “behind the curve” on economic development and internal disagreements from the past have confused the public and created problems.

“It is not wise to believe that it is the responsibility of John Q. Public to figure out why economic development is important. You have to bring that information to them. My clients that have been the most aggressive in this area are the ones that tend to also see a lot of success because what it does is it removes misinformation, it educates the community and builds support, which then makes it much easier for the elected officials to get behind initiatives,” Talente said at the time.

In April, Boyle County Magistrate Phil Sammons voiced criticism of EDP President Jody Lassiter’s performance during a public meeting to discuss the strategic plan. “I’d have to give him probably an F on bringing other employment into Boyle County,” Sammons said at the time.

Sammons has since changed his tune, saying as recently as November that “I think he’s doing a real good job.”

The strategic plan was developed with help from Talente’s firm, RKG Associates, which was paid a little more than $83,000 for its services. The City of Danville footed 65 percent of the bill; the Boyle County Fiscal Court contributed 10 percent; and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, Heart of Danville, Boyle County Industrial Foundation and the EDP itself all contributed 5 percent.

A primary domino of the strategic plan was the reorganization of the EDP’s board of directors.

A preliminary version of the plan, outlined in emails obtained by The Advocate-Messenger via open record requests, called for the Boyle County Industrial Foundation to have enough members on the EDP board to represent a one-vote majority. That idea had been scaled back by the time the reorganization plan was first made public, with the Industrial Foundation getting a proposed six votes on a board of 18-20 people.

The final restructuring, which was put in place following the EDP’s September board meeting, gave the Industrial Foundation, the Boyle County Fiscal Court and the City of Danville all three seats on the board.

Also voting on the new board: three members appointed by the EDP’s private “Chairman’s Circle” donors; three at-large members selected by the rest of the board; and one member appointed by the City of Perryville.

Junction City was a voting member of the EDP prior to the reorganization, but had not participated in EDP board meetings for years. It has retained a non-voting seat on the board, along with several other agencies that used to have a voting seat. It could have its voting seat back if it contributes about $1,500 to the EDP budget, representing 67 cents for every resident of the city.

The Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce cast the only vote against changing the EDP’s bylaws and reorganizing the board. Paula Fowler, who was then the director of the chamber, said the organization voted no for three reasons — the new board has too many public seats that can be filled by elected officials; elected officials can now hold officer seats, which the chamber believes could create a “conflict of interest;” and the new board “removed the voices of the smaller entities” by taking away the ability to vote from the chamber and three other agencies.

“In spite of our vote … the majority vote of the partners is to restructure and we are a team player — and we always have been,” Fowler said at the time. “The mission of the chamber has not changed.”

EDP officials in general have praised the reorganization for giving more voice to its public partners and refocusing the group on “core” economic development goals, often categorized as attracting new businesses; expanding and retaining current businesses; and workforce development.

The strategic plan also called for hiring additional staff at the EDP, which happened when the EDP hired its first chief operating officer, Hal B. Goode. 

“It’s a red-letter day for Boyle County, not only because school is starting in both districts, but we have a new first-time staff position being filled by a consummate economic development professional, by someone who is not only well-known in our region, our locality, but on a state level,” EDP President and CEO Jody Lassiter said on the day Goode was introduced in August. Goode’s first day on the job was Sept. 5.

Goode served as the president and CEO of the Kentucky Association for Economic Development and is a magistrate in neighboring Washington County.

Most recently, the EDP board has been working on further narrowing its list of ways it wants to grow Boyle’s economy. As of November, that list included improving access to high-speed internet; attracting a “small-scale video productions company” or a health-care-by-phone provider; creating postsecondary aviation training programs at the local airport; attracting more “artisan” businesses that provide things customers can’t get online; creating a “small-business incentive package;” looking into the creation of a sports complex that could attract large athletic tournaments; improving Constitution Square Park; and bringing in more bourbon and bourbon-tourism businesses.