New non-profit would act as economy booster

The Madison County Chamber of Commerce is working to establish a Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) in order to promote economic development and improvement in Madison County and surrounding areas.

The not-for-profit organization will draw funds from government entities, private corporations and individuals with the sole purpose of addressing economic development issues.

“It’s an economic development tool that we do not currently have and all of our competing neighbors have,” said Sean Hughes, the Chamber’s executive director and development director.

According to Hughes, many communities in the United States no longer rely on a Chamber of Commerce as an economic development entity because it does not possess the equivalent authority of a CIC.

As a non-profit organization separate of any municipality, a CIC can accommodate community projects that would otherwise be controversial, politically or legally, for government entities to address. It can own and operate industrial parks, acquire real estate properties, borrow and loan money, hire outside consultants to oversee development projects, administer grants, and develop an economic plan.

A CIC is also able to bypass many burdensome regulations that slow the development process.

Tim Suter, area manager at Ohio Edison stated, “If there are businesses that want to expand or relocate into the area, it’s a great tool to work with a CIC in order to do that. There’s ways to work around some of the government agency bureaucracy.”

Not only does a CIC expedite development progress, it also eliminates boundaries within the participating areas.

“It would save…a considerable amount of money by sharing in the cost of economic development tools with getting the same benefits as doing it all on our own,” said Mayor Scott Hockenbery of West Jefferson.

The cost to participate for each entity is subject to the level of involvement expected.

“It depends on what the communities want from the CIC,” Hughes said.

Specific dollar amounts contributed transfer to a correlating number of seats on the board of trustees of the CIC. At least 60 percent of the board members must be appointed or elected officers of private establishments.

At present, the Madison County CIC has been supported by the county commissioners, Jefferson Township, and the Village of West Jefferson. Other municipalities considering endorsement are the City of London and the Village of Mount Sterling.

Once the CIC receives enough support, the administration will hire an outside consultant to survey the county in order to assess the specific needs and aspirations of residents. This is achieved through phone calls, face-to-face interviews, and written surveys.

Community input will aid in creating a county-wide economic development plan. Once a plan is created, consultants also help raise funds for the CIC.

Hughes believes that private entities will be more likely to contribute to an economic development corporation.

“The CIC has a specific purpose to improve the community through economic development. Citizens know how that money will be used,” he said.

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