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Economic development funding provides chance to see what strategic plan can do

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

The Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership will have a little more money starting July 1 to put toward the goals of its strategic economic development plan. The EDP is getting a $27,500 bump from the City of Danville and while Boyle County Fiscal Court plans to keep its funding flat for the time being, magistrates are holding an extra $30,000 in reserve in case the EDP can make a good argument for its use.

Combine those amounts with the EDP’s request for an extra $10,000 from the Boyle County Industrial Foundation and the $17,500 in new private donations already raised (the EDP still has to ask current private donors to at least maintain their current levels of funding), and it all adds up to the potential of $85,000 more going toward economic development.

That’s not the $183,000 the EDP was hoping for back in February, but it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. It’s actually more than enough to accomplish two of the major goals set out by the EDP’s proposed budget: $42,000 for workforce development efforts and $21,250 to help land “opportunity zone” investors that could realize big federal tax breaks by bringing a business project to downtown Danville.

In fact, there’s enough left over after that to provide the additional $12,000 to $15,000 in funding for personnel the budget also asked for.

The one thing the $85,000 couldn’t do is provide the $100,000 the EDP was pondering spending on “asset development,” such as engineering and design work for a “pad-ready” site, looking into expansion of industrial park land and development of a high-value piece of privately-owned land on the Norfolk Southern rail line.

That asset development money is the most controversial of all the proposed additions to the budget, because the EDP’s public partners have pointed out they can’t spend taxpayer money to benefit a private landowner. So perhaps its best anyway that it sit on the back burner for a year, so officials can figure out what they want to do and if it can done.

This potential influx of money for economic development should give the EDP its best chance yet to put its strategic plan to work and see if it can produce results. That’s good because it’s been more than two years since the plan, which cost more than $83,000, was developed.

Just by developing the plan and following through on its initial recommendations for reorganizing its board, the EDP earned respect and improved its standing in the minds of the public. To maintain that standing and build on it, the EDP’s members cannot let the plan sit on the shelf; they must put as much effort as they can into implementing the plan.

If the plan works the way it’s supposed to, Boyle County will grow jobs and improve its quality of life. If it doesn’t work, then leaders can scrap it — or better, scrap just the parts that don’t work. But they can’t legitimately scrap any of it until they give it a fair shot to work.