MARINETTE — Marinette County continued to move forward last week with determining what role the county should play in stimulating economic and community development.

The county board’s Development Committee voted 4-2 last Tuesday, with supervisors Ted Sauve and Bonnie Popp dissenting, to enter into an agreement with the Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission to develop a strategic plan related to the role the county should assume in promoting, enhancing and/or conducting community and economic development for a cost of $5,750.

The committee at its meeting in January had directed County Administrator John Lefebvre to identify a consultant and/or Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission to develop a plan related to the role the county should assume in promoting, enhancing and/or conducting economic development.

Lefebvre told the committee that the $5,750 would not include the cost to hire an economic development consultant to review the plan and make a recommendation.

“They’re looking at a time-frame of about six months,” he said.

The committee rejected a motion by a 4-2 margin by Popp that was seconded by Sauve to postpone a vote on the proposal for a month until a representative of Bay-Lakes Regional Planning Commission appeared before the committee.

“I was hoping someone would be here to give us a presentation and I’d like to know if they have done these for other counties,” Popp said.

“We don’t want to move too fast on this,” Sauve said. “Let’s get all the acts and information before we make the final decision.”

“That’s what this is all about,” Lefebvre said. “It’s getting all the facts from the various groups, getting all the information, what’s taking place already and what role the county should plan

“They will come back with a recommendation based on the information they will get. I could have invited them here for this meeting, but I’m not really sure what kind of information they can give you and I don’t know what information you’re looking for.”

Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison said “if you look at the proposal, they’re very specific about telling us what they’re going to do.”

The proposal by Economic Development Planner Elizabeth Runge said, “We are pleased to prepare a proposal for an action plan to assist Marinette County with a review of the economic development process occurring in the county.”

“We understand the county is undergoing its own review of existing organizational components and processes that currently execute executive economic development throughout the county,” she said. “Our proposal will result in an action plan designed to facilitate the county’s review and provide information for future decision-making about increased effectiveness and efficiency of economic development programs being conducted in Marinette County.”

Runge, who will coordinate and complete the project, said the effort will include three steps: evaluation of existing conditions, analyze program needs and development of an action engaging stakeholders, public and private at each step.

“The evaluation will begin with an inventory of all the economic development processes and entities in and as a part of the county,” she said. “The economic development functions of Marinette County for the purposes of this review will include community development and tourism services.

“The inventory will include the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI), various chambers of commerces and tourism promotion providers to develop a comprehensive list. An evaluation of the tasks performed by these organizations, their funding mechanisms and other differences/similarities of each will be identified.”

She said a determination of program needs will be completed.

“This input will in large part come from from stakeholders and staff in the county,” Runge explained. “Interviews with industry and economic development leaders will be conducted where these individuals will be encouraged to speak candidly about the strengths and weaknesses of Marinette County’s programs.

“The results will provide important insight about the current economic development organization structure and what important stakeholders think is lacking. The analysis will also include a profile of three economic development programs in other counties. The profile will include information about their organizational structure, program elements, funding mechanisms and other pertinent information to provide alternative models, as to how economic development program can be operated and organized.”

Runge said the product of the effort will be an “action plan.”

“It will contain the previous two steps as described providing a usable reference of economic development structure alternatives,” she said. “We are also going to include a review of the alternative economic development models by an additional economic development expert/consultant.

“The consultant’s review will include input of strengths and weaknesses of the types of economic development structure (organizational) models and provide a recommendation of the best fit for Marinette County. The recommendation will also include a means of pursuing that organizational structure should the county wish to pursue it in the future.”

Lefebvre said he doesn’t know if Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission has done this particular  type pf project for other counties.

“They do lots of planning documents for counties.” he said. “Whether they have done this particular one I don’t know.

“We pay them an annual fee of $23,000 to be our planning agency so we already contribute to the organization. We’ve tapped into them from time to time for comprehensive planning.”

The proposal from Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission says Runge has more than 20 years experience in community and economic development in the public and private sector.

The proposal also says “Bay Lake RPC has the expertise and and resources  to successfully achieve the objectives of the proposed project. The Bay Lake RPC was created in 1972 as a public entity providing planning and technical assistance to member local governments in Northeast Wisconsin. As such, we are accountable to our local government members, and serve as effective partners for state and federal governments.”