EDP board examines efficiency, plans for future during day-long retreat

Forming and storming 

Fourteen members of the recently reorganized Economic Development Partnership board of directors held an all-day retreat in a classroom at Centre College on Saturday. The purpose was to get a better grasp of how they should work together to accomplish its goals; how the EDP’s public and private partners can be utilized more efficiently; and what the board wants to focus on for the future.

Moderating the discussions was Kyle Talente with the consulting firm RKG Associates, the company that completed the EDP’s strategic economic development plan in 2017.

Talente told the group they were currently in the “forming and storming” stage, when members brainstorm and form ways to work more efficiently and effectively with each other as a board. This will eventually lead to the board performing and meeting its goals.

Items discussed include:

During the EDP’s working retreat all day Saturday, board member Ennis Tillman places a sticker on a workforce development issue he feels is important. All board members were given four stickers to place where they feel is a need in Boyle County for its economic growth.

• Engagement — Not all board members responded to a survey Talente had sent out. This was concerning to him because it signaled not every board member was engaged in the EDP process. Talente suggested it was time, “For everybody to pick up a shovel and dig.” If anyone on the board couldn’t take an active part in the EDP’s activities, they should, “Step up or step off.”

• Communication — Members talked about the need to improve timely and more dynamic communications among themselves, the partners and the public. The board also wants to improve the public’s and partners’ understanding of the EDP, which they said in turn would improve trust among everyone. 

Also, it was made clear everyone on the EDP board should know and understand its mission statement.

It was also deemed necessary to state that individual board members should be careful what they disclose in public. Attendees were told it’s fine to have an opinion different from the board’s consensus, but when speaking in public, each board member must always support the decisions of the EDP board.

Also, all responses to the media and to social media comments should all be made by the board chair.

• Alignment — The board discussed how to get its public partners, specifically the Heart of Danville and Chamber of Commerce, in alignment with the EDP’s goals. The board agreed it needs to clearly understand and define the purpose of each partner and figure out ways where the partners’ resources and abilities come together “naturally” with the EDP’s overall picture of economic development.

• The EDP may reach out to owners who are trying to sell or lease their properties and suggest realistic prices and rates to list them for.

• The EDP is considering whether to form more subcommittees, like its current transportation and workforce committees, and/or create more informal roundtable groups.

• The location of the former Cue restaurant on Main Street is getting closer to being leased, according to Danville Mayor Mike Perros.

• It was suggested Boyle focus on recruiting smaller businesses and industries so that the area’s infrastructure, like schools, health care and housing can keep up with growth.

• As jobs open in Boyle County, employees will need more housing options. Currently there is a lack of affordable quality rental properties, and homes in the price range under $200,000 are scarce.

• Career readiness was also talked about. Board member and Danville Schools superintendent, Keith Look said, today a skilled labor force doesn’t necessarily mean a student has to go to college after high school. Technical training is becoming more important in today’s working landscape. Technical training and certifications are practical ways for someone right out of high school to earn a good income — if they can pass a drug screening. 

Board member and Danville city commissioner Denise Terry added that by earning a technical degree, a student could earn good wages without all of the student loan debt that can be accrued with a traditional 4-year college degree.

It was mentioned that teachers also need to know the importance and opportunities for students to get technical training as opposed to pushing a student toward college. Look said, this is also hard for some parents to understand since they have always thought a college degree is the only way for their child to eventually earn a decent living.

• Other ideas discussed that the EDP may pursue include: studying the feasibility of setting up an investment fund, which could help finance new businesses; helping someone with a good business idea but no financing get in touch with someone who has money but needs ideas; creating a prospectus book for business recruitment purposes and marketing materials; looking into new business incentives; creating a business improvement district; developing a virtual shopping mall for downtown businesses; and improving community outreach and understanding, perhaps with a newsletter, hosting town hall type meetings, or forming advocates within the EDP.