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City hopes to clarify agency roles

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It's a confusing maze of alphabet soup to those unfamiliar with the region's economic development organizations.

But the New Richmond City Council is hoping to navigate the long list of non-profit agencies (the EDC, NRAEDC, St. Croix EDC, New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, emerging business incubator, Forward Wisconsin) to figure out who's doing what and if there are any overlapping efforts.

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Now that New Richmond has hired Jerry Brown as its full-time marketing director, Council members pledged to evaluate the agencies that are partially funded through local tax monies.

At a special Council meeting Jan. 7, the Council expressed an interest in gathering all of the economic development groups at a joint meeting to come to an understanding of the roles of each.

The Council also agreed to fund a new city Web site, which will help the community market itself to businesses interested in locating here.

Much of the discussion, however, centered on the confusion most feel about the current circumstances.

"Since we're funding these groups, it's important for us to set the agenda," said Alderman Fred Horne. "We need to make sure it's all mapped out, so everyone knows what everybody else is doing."

Alderman Jim Johnston said Brown has already begun work on a five-year strategic plan for economic development. He mentioned that that was a good start in sorting out what groups are responsible for each part of the economic development process.

Brown said the roles of each organization are pretty well defined now, but agreed that not everyone understands the difference between each group.

Brown did mention, however, that only one person is actually recruiting new businesses for New Richmond -- himself.

The Council and City staff members talked about the future roles of two City volunteer committees -- the Economic Development Commission and the Community Development Authority.

Some suggested combining the two, now that the economic development marketing function is being handled by Brown. Others felt both committees should remain with expanded duties, such as developing long-term plans for the City's economic vitality.

"I think the CDA and EDC are functioning very well," Mayor David Schnitzler said. "Basically I think they're doing a darn good job."

The Council will continue its discussion of the matter at a future undetermined meeting.

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