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New economic development group moving forward

Powell Economic Partnership hires project manager

A new effort to promote economic development in the Powell area took a step forward recently with the hiring of a project manager.

Robbi Welch of Powell became the project manager for Powell Economic Partnership, Inc. two weeks ago, and she will present a plan for fundraising to the board of directors this week.

Board Chairman Rick LaPlante said Welch was hired to drive the group’s activities for the next few months and create awareness of those activities in the community.

“There have been a few different entities doing economic development for Powell over the years that have wound down operations, and we need to let people know that this broad-based, community-driven effort is now taking on the challenge of collaborating and driving that mission,” LaPlante said.

Welch said she will be working to form partnerships between the group and local businesses and strengthen ties with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, and to generate donations that will allow the organization to employ a full-time economic development director.

She said she believes the effort will be successful because an effective organization has been developed.

“I think people will see this is a solid movement,” Welch said.

Both Welch and LaPlante said the group’s funding goal is to provide reserves to employ an executive director, pay for any necessary consultants and operate the organization for three years.

“Our thinking is that economic development is much like raising/nurturing any living thing — it takes time for the lessons to sink in, and even more time before you can evaluate success,” LaPlante said.  ”We gave ourselves a three-year runway to ensure the time to evaluate initial successes.”

LaPlante said those efforts would require $200,000 per year, so the fundraising goal is $600,000, although the donations would not have to be all up front.

“We expect many of those donations to be given over a three-year period, but that the commitment for the total will be there,” LaPlante said.

Powell Economic Partnership formed early last year and since then has focused on planning and understanding the community’s needs for economic development as well as beginning partnerships, LaPlante said. Since then, the more than 30 active community members who make up the group have been educating themselves about economic development, developing a mission statement and organizing.

“And we’ve spent quite a bit of time working on the types of services that an economic development group in Powell would offer,” LaPlante said, such as collaborating with the Center for Training and Development at Northwest College for training opportunities for local businesses and possibly offering access to area experts in business growth and planning for no charge.

The group’s mission statement calls for uniting the local business community and government in an effort to develop the local economy and improve the quality of life in ways that are consistent with the culture and environment of the Powell area and that will benefit the entire community.

LaPlante said that involves evaluating development opportunities “against the backdrop of the culture of the Powell Valley, existing businesses, the long-term aspects of the business growth and how it might fit into the community.

“We believe existing businesses are the most obvious engine of economic growth,” LaPlante said. “They already exist, have business plans, customers, employees and relationships.”

Bringing data on development opportunities together and providing quality information and education is a major part of creating an environment for development. The city, Northwest College and Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce will all play a role in providing and analyzing the necessary data on issues such as transportation, supply chains and businesses that can collaborate.

“We also envision a group of local and regional business leaders who are willing to provide mentorship programs to aspiring entrepreneurs, and services like confidential business model reviews and analysis by people in the community recognized as successful business leaders,” LaPlante said. “These services are things that would uniquely be Powell.”

LaPlante heads the board of directors of Powell Economic Partnership. Others on the board include Vice Chair Kelly Spiering, Secretary LeAnne Kindred, Treasurer Jim Seckman, Trace Paul, Paul Prestwich and Seaton Smith. More than 30 other members serve on the advisory council.

1 comment

  • posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    January 31, 2012 10:49 am

    You can only put so many band aids on a gushing wound.

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