MARINETTE — The Development Committee of the Marinette County Board took action Tuesday it hopes will help the county determine what it needs to do to promote economic and community development.

The committee voted 6-1, with Supervisor and committee chairperson Ted Sauve dissenting, to authorize County Administrator John Lefebvre to identify a consultant and/or Bay Lakes Regional Planning Commission to develop a plan related to the role the county should assume in promoting, enhancing and/or conducting community and economic development.

Community and economic development has been discussed at length by the committee since the county board heard from business and industry representatives at a panel discussion held last fall at the UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus. 

The committee on Dec. 4 directed Lefebvre to develop options to identify the role the county should assume in promoting, enhancing and/or conducting community and economic development and develop a plan to hire an individual to accomplish those goals.

“After much consideration and discussing it with other people, it was highly recommended that we really need a third party in here to review some things and offer some suggestions, see what’s working in other counties and municipalities and take a step back and reflect on what we have available to us now and where we want to go,” Lefebvre said. “I would suggest that we work with Bay Lake Regional Planning, and potentially with a consultant, to identify what’s working well and what is not working, just to try to put together some type of plan for a model for the county to look at.

“What we’re talking about doing is just focusing on what role the county should play for economic and community development. What I would recommend is the committee allow me to work with a consultant or Bay Lakes Regional Planning and bring a proposal back to this committee so we can look at the scope of work that they’re going to provide and a timetable and cost estimate and then make a recommendation to the county board.”

He said no funds from the county would be required at the present time to carry out the directive by the committee, “we’d just be working on putting together a summary of the project they would be doing, talk to them about what is going on in the community and try to get them to identify what they think they could put together.”

“I’ve  talked to the executive director of Bay Lakes Regional Planning to see if this would be something they could do for us,” Lefebvre said. “He indicated that it would be and that they would like to have a conversation with us about what we would be looking at.

“They’ve done work in the past for the city (of Marinette) and a number of municipalities in the county. I’m not saying it would be Bay Lakes (doing the study), it could be consultant or a combination of both. I’d like to keep the door open right now to see what Bay Lakes can offer and then if the name of a consultant is thrown out that we should consider as well.”

He said that an entity mentioned that could possibly help the country was the consultant that helped create New North, a consortium of business, economic development, chambers of commerce, workforce development, civic, non-profit and education leaders in the 18-county region of northeast Wisconsin.

“This would only be a plan to talk about the type of model the county can get into, what role we should play in economic and community development,” he said. “This would not be a community and economic development plan.

“We’d have to see what the cost would be and identity the scope of work. Those are the kinds of things I’d like them to put together. And bring them back to the committee so we could see what the cost would be to determine if it would be worth the cost and find out what the time-frame would be to do this.”

Supervisor Mark Anderson, who is board chairperson, stressed to the committee that “we have 30 different views on the county board (on how to stimulate economic and community development).”

“Everybody is thinking about their various communities and what they think is important,” he said. “We need to have somebody come in here and do some focus groups throughout the county and find out what is needed in the county and try to put together a plan that works for everybody.

“Our goal is that everybody should be treated equal in Marinette County. We have the opportunity to do it right now. We need to move forward with the right system.”

Anderson said he doesn’t know of any county in the state that does economic development at the county-level and that only one county has a tourism director.

Later at Tuesday’s meeting, the Development Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the county board the removal of the county-appointed representatives from the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI) Board of Directors.

In the past, and as recently as last year, the county contracted with MCABI for economic development services.

“Currently we are not in a contract with MCABI and I’m not sure how far we are into the future from even entering into any type of contract,” Lefebvre said. “I think they are still trying to figure out their own little model and I think we should consider removing any appointments we have to the MCABI Board.”

He said at present, supervisors Sauve and Al Mans, and citizen Michael Mead, are the county’s appointed representatives to the MCABI Board.

“I don’t think we should continue to place individuals on the MCABI Board if we’re not contributing financially to that organization,” Lefebvre said. “We have no contract with MCABI at the present time.

“They’re working on rewriting their bylaws,” Anderson explained.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the committee approved by a 6-1 margin, with Supervisor Bonnie Popp dissenting, the elimination  of the county’s part-time tourism coordinator position that has been vacant since October of 2017 when Butch Kostreva resigned.

The board voted last February to contract with the city to share the services of a city employee to provide tourism and marketing services and voted last month to renew the contract. Melissa Ebsch has held that position since last April.

“It would not be my recommendation that we fill that (county) position,” Lefebve said. “Regardless of what we decide to do I think we should eliminate the position and take it off the county books.

“If any committee decides that we should recreate the position, I suggest we go through the entire process, create a job description, identify what that person is going to do and run it through the appropriate committees and then the full county board.”

The committee postponed for the second meeting in a row discussion and consideration of proposal to create in partnership with the City of Marinette, a Convention and Visitors Bureau.