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Marshall to end EDA support services contract with Chamber

By Deb Gau

dgau@marshallindependent.com

MARSHALL — For years, the Marshall Economic Development Authority has had a close working relationship with organizations like the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce. But while there have been benefits to contracting with the Chamber for support services, there could also be benefits to having city staff provide those services instead, said Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson.

“About mid-year of this year, I’ve done some analysis and thought process, into looking at the EDA contracted services with the chamber,” Hanson said. Through the contract with the Chamber, the city EDA gets the services of economic development assistant director Marcia Loeslie.

“The thought process came back to should we continue this contract with the Chamber,” or pursue having a city employee work with the EDA director, Hanson said.

After weighing the pros and cons, members of the Marshall City Council voted Tuesday to end the city’s 2021 contract with the Marshall Area Chamber for Loeslie’s services.

“There’s really no complaints,” Hanson said of Loeslie’s work. However, she said, “I think if we had someone on-site, the utilization of the individual would be greater. We could enhance what we do for economic development.”

In July, members of the EDA board approved a contract that would allow Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce staff to continue to assist the Marshall EDA director with tasks like strategic planning and business retention, and in developing the EDA’s annual report.

The EDA director is hired by the city of Marshall, but works closely with groups like the Chamber and the Marshall Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There were pros and cons to contracting with the Chamber for EDA support services, Hanson said. For example, on the pro side it could save the city money on payroll benefits and insurance costs, while also providing assistance and expertise for the EDA director. However, having contracted services wouldn’t allow for the same amount of “on-site” work with city offices.

Hanson said the timing of her recommendations to end the contract had to do with ongoing talks between the Marshall and other cities and Lyon County over whether to have a shared EDA.

“I was really waiting to see if there would be some movement towards the county sharing in a position for these particular services,” Hanson said, but the county and cities needed more time to talk about a potential partnership.

Some council members supported Hanson’s recommendations.

“The whole EDA process that the city’s gone through over the past number of years has really been an evolution,” with the EDA taking on a growing number of functions, said council member John DeCramer. “I do fully support city administrator’s direction on this,” although he said he regretted losing the services of “an individual who is doing a very good job for the city.”

“I think Marcia Loeslie has done an awesome job for us,” said council member Craig Schafer. He said it was likely the city would still ask for Loeslie to participate in future EDA projects.

Schafer said while he supported Hanson’s recommendation, it was important for the city not to lose its connection with area businesses through the Chamber. “We can’t do this kind of economic development by ourselves,” he said.

Council member Glenn Bayerkohler said the city should stay with its contract with the Chamber, partly for the flexibility it offered.

“With a contract you can adjust it,” Bayerkohler said. “In this case, we can terminate the contract within 30 days.”

Council members voted 6-1 to give 30 days’ notice to terminate the service contract with the Chamber of Commerce. Bayerkohler cast the dissenting vote.

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