Another step forward for economic development in Gulf County.
The Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday affirmed the five-member board that will comprise the new Gulf County Economic Development Alliance, Inc., which will spearhead economic development for at least the next 18 months.
Despite a dispute over what commissioners approved at their last meeting, the BOCC approved Jerry Gaskin, Loretta Costin, Anna Duren, Steve Newman and Guerry Magidson as the EDA board and motioned to move ahead with an agreement between the county and EDA.
Two weeks ago, the county approved moving the Economic Development Council out from under its umbrella and charged Magidson, the outgoing president of the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce board, with creating a new EDC board.
The EDA director, commissioners approved then, would be EDC director Barry Sellers, who originally arrived to lead a consolidated Chamber/EDC but was left in limbo after the BOCC voted late last year to move the EDC under its umbrella.
Magidson said he had talked with a number of folks in the community, some of whom said they would not serve on the board, and identified five people he said brought the requisite skills and passion to the effort to bring jobs to the county.
Paperwork for incorporation was filed last week and the EDA will operate as a non-profit, he said.
Sellers will be released from his Chamber/EDC contract to sign a contract with the new EDA pending legal review.
“I think (Magidson) has done a great job of moving quickly and he put a great, talented board in place,” said Commissioner Joanna Bryan. “I’m excited about the future.”
There was dissent from Commissioner Carmen McLemore about whether Magidson was tasked with selecting the board and Commission chair Tan Smiley said he would like to see each of the county’s five districts represented on the board.
“The vote was not to give this man the power to appoint this board,” McLemore said, saying as the BOCC puts in $80,000 in funding, it should have the say over EDA board members.
Bryan said she had reviewed the tape of the last meeting and her motion and said it clearly stated Magidson was charged with forming the EDA board.
That motion passed 3-2 with McLemore and Commissioner Warren Yeager dissenting.
Bryan said Magidson had brought together people who know the community, have passion for economic development and have the skill set needed.
“The point was not to put together a political board,” Bryan said. “If we choose, it is an extension of us and it’s just politics.”
Commissioner Ward McDaniel asked a series of questions to clarify what had happened and was to happen and agreed in the end that politics should be left on the sidelines.
“This is a good board, we need to keep the politics out of it,” McDaniel said.
Bryan said she would be working with the county attorney and Magidson on the agreement between the new EDA and the BOCC to provide appropriate oversight.
“I think these are the steps we need to take to go forward,” said Commissioner Warren Yeager. “There is some clarification we need to have, but we do need to move forward.”
McDaniel, who voted to return the EDC to an independent agency, said he was pleased with the board but that jobs were the currency of success.
“They are going to have to produce,” McDaniel said. “I’m personally going to hold some people accountable.”
Mike Hobson, who established an ice business in Gulf County while Ed Nelson was the director of the EDC, said that he had seen the work from the EDC that commissioners have consistently said over the past four to five years has been absent.
Hobson said he came to Gulf County two years ago, and had 12 employees in the county.
“Not one of you have been in my business, but Barry Sellers has been in at least 10 times trying to help me grow this business,” he said. “I keep hearing you haven’t seen anything – here I am.”
Smiley said whatever differences commissioners had on economic development it was time to move ahead.
“Jobs coming here is going to benefit us,” Smiley said. “We have made a decision. We need to pull together because we will all benefit if they bring in jobs.”