Economic Development Partnership to restructure as a corporation

Published 3:30 pm Monday, August 15, 2022

The Danville Boyle County Economic Development Partnership (EDP) will soon change its structure and its name to the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

With a new name comes a revitalized identity and renewed focus on ED efforts.

Current Board Chair Alan Turbyfill said the main reason for restructuring is to make the EDP more efficient and give it a smaller board. The biggest change will be reducing its board from 17 members to 10 or less.

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The current board consists of three directors appointed by the Boyle County Fiscal Court; three appointed by the Danville City Commission; three by the Boyle County Industrial Foundation; three directors appointed by private investors that invest at least $25,000 annually in the partnership; three directors at large elected by the board who represent the community and economic interests of Boyle County; and one director appointed by the cities of Junction City and Perryville if they invest a minimum financial amount in the partnership annually.

The Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Heart of Danville, and Main Street Perryville are currently Advisory Partners that may each appoint one non-voting representative to the board.

Turbyfill said a smaller board will allow the organization to be more nimble and responsive in their decision making.

The main partners will be cities, county, Industrial Foundation, and the new Economic Development Authority (EDA), which was founded last year for land acquisition and development. An advisory council will be made up of other partners, donors and volunteers to provide expertise and resources.

Turbyfill said they haven’t decided who will be on the new board yet, and they are in the process of writing new bylaws for the organization.

Economic Development Corporations are more common in towns across America. They look different in each town to fit their unique needs. Danville City Manager Earl Coffey said that as Boyle County has grown and changed, its economic development needs have changed in return.

“As a community grows, the things that are in your community move around,” Coffey said.

He said the county has been going from a rural community to more urban, with a similar density to Berea. The larger a city is, the more the government is involved in economic development.

“As you get denser and more urban, you get a natural migration from volunteers with private investment to public consolidated investment, as population increases,” Coffey said.

Coffey said the City Commission has allocated its usual $200,000 to the EDP with the caveat that they restructure. The Boyle Fiscal Court, on the other hand, recently withdrew from the EDP, but will rejoin when the new structure is in place.

Turbyfill said the EDP’s main goals will not change as the EDC. Among other things, the EDC will be in charge of marketing to and recruitment of industrial and commercial prospects and small businesses, entrepreneurial programs and support, business retention and expansion, infrastructure evaluation and development, workforce development, workforce housing, and regional economic development coordination.

The EDC will likely have three full time positions and one part time position, the same as the EDP. Turbyfill explained that one reason the EDP has been less efficient over the last few years is because they have never been fully staffed to the three and a half positions.

The EDP started about 15 years ago mainly out of the Industrial Foundation. EDP staff was co-employed by the Industrial foundation and EDP. Turbyfill said eventually as the organization grew, the staff reporting structure became unclear.

So they did a major restructuring in 2017, which is when Turbyfill joined the board. The change moved the EDP to more of a public-private partnership and gave everyone a voice on the board. However, the board ended up being too large, hence the need for another restructuring.

“I think the biggest challenge still is working together,” Turbyfill said. “Partnerships are difficult, they require effort; you can’t just put everybody in a room and just assume they’re all going to work together. If you have good smart people, they have different ideas.”

Economic Development Specialist Josh Gooch has been the only full time EDP staff member for about a year. He is the point of contact for any type of economic activity that comes to town, inquiries for developers and companies looking to come to town; he works with committees of the board, and provides administrative support.

Former EDP President Jody Lassiter left in August 2021 after 14 years in the role, and they had not been able to hire a new director. They recently hired an interim director, Terry Crowley, who will help with organizational changes and oversee staff until the new bylaws are in place and they find a permanent director.

With a part time administrative support person through the Chamber of Commerce, the most employees the EDP has had is two and a half. Turbyfill said the new EDC must commit to filling that one open position to be successful.

The open position is a workforce development specialist. Turbyfill said workforce development is a huge issue right now with businesses being short staffed. Developing the workforce involves attracting more workers to town, making sure people are getting the necessary training to fill jobs, having an affordable place to live, access to childcare, and other things.

“EDP’s workforce development committee has a lot of ideas and initiatives but we really need more staff,” Turbyfill said.

The EDP did not want to hire a workforce development specialist until a new director was on board, to ensure that person had oversight. But now that they have an interim director, they have been advertising for the workforce position.

Turbyfill said the new EDC will have a personnel committee, so that supervision of staff is clear and they make sure they have appropriate staff.

Among all the public entities involved, the EDP is partly funded through private donors who want the community to be successful.

“We’re fortunate in this community that we have so many people who want to help, who want to contribute, give their time and effort, and organizations that are willing to give money, and that’s important too,” Turbyfill said.

The EDP is currently planning for its annual economic development symposium sometime in early September. It serves as a training for everyone involved in the organization, the community and elected officials, about current economic development practices and what’s being done in other places.

“With economic development, everybody wants it, but not everyone knows the pieces to it; so what you’re trying to do is get everyone in a room to understand things together so people don’t hear different things, so we all hear the same message at the same time,” Coffey said about the symposium.

Turbyfill said with the new EDC, he will likely not be board chair, and may not be on the board at all. He is a representative of the Industrial Foundation, which going forward, will likely only have one board representative. Turbyfill said he has loved being a part of it.

“The EDP has accomplished getting a wider breadth of the community involved in economic development including the local governments, and understanding how big and complex a task that is, and getting everybody working together, not always playing together well, but everybody focused on needing to do this together,” he said.