Powell Economic Partnership board chairman Rick LaPlante said he had “great news” for the Powell City Council Monday night.
PEP has selected Building Communities Inc. as its consulting firm, he said. Seven companies from across the Western United States applied, LaPlante said.
“Their focus is getting to actionable plans” he said of BCI. “We feel real strongly this consulting firm will do good work for us.”
Building Communities Inc., which is based in Boise, Idaho, will be paid about $59,000, according to LaPlante, with most of that, around $50,000, coming from the Wyoming Business Council, and the rest from PEP. Including food and other costs, the local group will spend about $16,000, LaPlante said, and that money comes from the city, Park County and local individuals who wanted to assist in the effort.
Building Communities Inc. staffers will come to Powell three times to help come up with a economic development plan, LaPlante said.
A local steering committee, made up of between 10 and 50 people, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 5, for “strategic development planning,” according to LaPlante. The committee needs to be a cross-section of the community socially, economically and in every possible way to ensure all voices and ideas are heard, LaPlante said. Names of the committee members will be released next week.
That eight-hour meeting will include a report on a study of Powell that is now being compiled. After that meeting, “voice of the community” meetings will be held, he said.
The first will be held Tuesday night followed by one at lunch on Wednesday, Nov. 6, and the final one that night. The goal of those three meetings is to see if the public approves of the initial concept.
“We want to know, are we moving in the right direction?” LaPlante said. This will prevent PEP from heading down a road and later finding out it has little support in the community.
For example, does the city want to work toward developing agriculture-enhanced businesses? If so, how can it make that happen in Powell? How can the entrepreneurial spirit in Powell be energized?
Final economic development proposals are scheduled to be released in March, LaPlante said. The goal is to come up with a 10-year plan for success.
However, LaPlante said not all the news was good.
PEP has offered its executive director job to two people and both have turned it down. The first choice, Jeff Reed of Halifax County, Va., accepted the position but days before he was set to come to Powell, his father grew seriously ill, and Reed withdrew his acceptance.
The next choice, Scott Bowles of Florence, Ariz., declined the position last week to pursue other options.
“Recruiting this level of talent and experience means you are in a very competitive situation with candidates having multiple offers,” LaPlante said in a statement. “Being that close to the finish line with such high caliber candidates but not being able to close the deal is certainly frustrating, but it does show that we’ve got a lot to offer.”
He told the council PEP will now look for candidates already in the region. Several good candidates have applied, he said.
“We were asking a lot of both candidates to pick up and move across the country to a new, more rural life,” said Kelly Spiering, PEP’s vice chair. ”When they factored in such a major change, we came up just short. Going forward, we are going to have to weigh the desire to live in a rural community even more heavily.”
The job will remain open until filled, LaPlante said, and he is eager to see that happen, as is Anna Sapp, the interim executive director who is also serving as the project coordinator for Northwest College’s Center for Training and Development, who was also at the meeting. Sapp said NWC has been very gracious to allow her to wear two hats.
Councilman Josh Shorb was appointed to the Steering Committee for Economic Development in Powell. Councilman Jim Hillberry already serves as a city representative on the committee and Councilman Eric Paul is on the committee as a Realtor.
The council unanimously approved a request from PEP for a waiver of fees at The Commons for the Nov 4-8 meetings.