Marysville and Union County are growing, and now it looks like the local economic development office might, too.
Marysville Economic Development Director Eric Phillips spoke to council during Monday’s work session about the possibility of the city helping to fund a new employee for his office.
Right now, Phillips said his office employs him, Development Services Manager Jason Stanford, Marysville Entrepreneurial Center (MEC) Manager Chaz Freutel and a summer intern.
Phillips’ office is asking for $120,000 from the county, the city and the Union County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) to fund the new position. That money will go toward the new employee’s salary and benefits. He said the county and city would kick in about $40,000 to $50,000 each, while the CIC would provide about $20,000 to $30,000.
Phillips said his office has begun fundraising, netting $4,900 so far from private investors.
The new position, Development Project Manager, would focus on the Smart Mobility Corridor, business retention and local government outreach, among other duties.
The MEC manager and intern positions would remain the same.
Phillips said compared to Dublin’s five and Delaware County’s nine people devoted to economic development, Union County is lagging behind.
Phillips said he and Stanford are stretched between several responsibilities they can’t always carry out. For example, Phillips said he tries to visit 20 companies per year to discuss expansion.
“We don’t always get to 20, but our goal is to meet 20 companies,” he said. “We really need to do better at that retention/expansion program.”
Phillips said about 80 percent of his office’s time is spent on Marysville projects. City Manager Terry Emery added if a project isn’t in Marysville, it’s likely in areas for which the city provides utilities.
Emery said when the city does its strategic planning every year, officials regularly bring up the idea of the city doing its own economic development. Emery said funding a new joint employee would help meet the needs a purely city-employed counterpart to Phillips would provide.
“When I look at what we’re accomplishing through our partnerships and our relationships with the county and the city and Millcreek Township, hopefully we’ll continue to develop that with Jerome Township … this is a way, I think, for us to get closer to where we need to be.”
Additionally, Emery said Phillips is being pulled in too many directions at once. He said during Phillips’ recent time off, “I was receiving things from Eric every day while he was on vacation.”
“They’re burning the candle at both ends sometimes,” Emery said. “It worries me a little bit.”
Union County Commissioner Steve Stolte, who was present at the meeting to “absorb information,” said he’s “always been supportive of economic development.” He commended Phillips on his performance as economic development director.
“We didn’t know about autonomous vehicles until three years ago,” Stolte said. “Eric is the one who really stepped up over those last three years to learn about that.”
Stolte said with Phillips’ time spent adapting to the rise of autonomous vehicles, “he’s piled his full-time job on top of another full-time job.”
Commissioner Charles Hall was there with Stolte, and voiced his personal concern with what the future might hold for the county. He said the area should be ready to jump on new opportunities and growth in regards to economic development, “or we’re going to be left in the dust.”
Councilperson Nevin Taylor voiced support for the new position, and asked Phillips how soon legislation to appropriate funds could come before council.
“From a time perspective, it would be great to do that this year,” Phillips replied.
Taylor agreed, and said he’d like to see the legislation in the last quarter of this year.
Emery said he’d like officials to do some more research on the current state of the area from an economic standpoint. He said once that’s done, and officials have verified that the idea has enough support from both the city and county, legislation can come to council late this year.
Councilperson Henk Berbee voiced support for the new position.
“Up until now, we’ve always had to think from a reactionary approach,” he said. “This goes into providing a way that I feel we should be going, which is a proactive approach.”
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