MARINETTE — The Marinette County Board of Supervisors has been debating for several months on what should be done to spur community and economic development in the county. On Tuesday it finally reached a consensus, voting 24-5 to direct Administrator John Lefebvre and the Development Committee to create an internal Community Development position. 

Supervisor Gilbert Engel made the motion with a second from Supervisor Robert Holley. Voting “no” were Supervisors Ginger Deschane, Chris Gromala, John Guarisco, Shirley Kaufman and Clancy Whiting.

Supervisor Mark Anderson, board chairperson, said he thought the preference of the board in October was to contract out for economic and community development services. Then he said he got emails for supervisors proposing something completely different — creating an internal position.

“We’ve been spinning our wheels now for another three months,” he said. “And it’s been over a year-and-a-half since we had a community forum in regards to these topics

“For months supervisors have gone back and forth on whether to establish an internal development role or  to contract those services another agency.”

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting Robert Pontius, John Deschane and Roberta Davis of inVenture  North urged the board to contract with the Marinette-based agency rather than create an internal position.

“I want to reiterate — inVenture North is already the conduit for community and economic development,” Davis said. “I feel by you hiring a coordinator it duplicates our efforts, losing valuable time in the process of building a more vibrant community

“We have already proven to be a valued community partner and coordinator and I ask you to reconsider this position, and allocate those funds to inVenture North and allow us to expand the already existing conduit we’ve built over the past years.”

“We’re not going to fill this position right away and then that person would have to have a little time to get his or her feet on the ground,” said Supervisor Don Pazynski. “We have to do something, the competition is intense, other counties are all implementing economic development of some type. We’ve got a lot to offer”

Ginger Deschane said: “We’re way behind in economic and community development. If we go to with an insider, you’re not going to see anything for at least a year.”

“The whole thing is all about building relationships with communities and businesses in the county and I think we need to go with a group that’s already developed those relationships. I think we really need to go with an outside entity. I think we need  to go with inVenture North or someone similar.”

“There’s really an immediate need,” said Supervisor Rick Polzin. “Housing (for workers) should be  the first priority in economic and community development.

“We need to find the expertise that has the understanding of what it takes to bring together state, federal and local resources and formulate a plan. When you look at the people who are qualified to provide the depth of knowledge needed, you’re not going to find them for less six-figure salaries. I’d like to see something developed by Aug. 1.”

The county administrator said the intent to fund an economic development effort is to transfer money from the 2019 budget into 2020.

“I’m opposed to the idea of hiring an individual,” Lefebvre said. “I’m not opposed to the concept to take some stuff off our (administration’s) plate. This has been the one thing that we’ve had a difficult time accomplishing.

“We just have been spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. We need to move forward. If you want this position, I will support it and I will make it happen.”

He stressed that even if the county creates a community and economic development position, it still would need to contract with entities like inVenture North, Bay Lakes Regional Planning Commission, Cedar Corp., and Ayres and Associates.

“This position wouldn’t be the answer-all,” Lefebvre said. “It would be a piece of the puzzle.”

“The one  thing you learn about economic development is that it’s not a quick fix,” Anderson. “It’s about a strategy and we need someone to help us with that strategy.”

Kaufman said right now contracting with inVenture North should be  the direction the county should take.

Pazynski and Supervisor Mike Behnke envisioned the person in the proposed community development position being like a liaison with outside entities.

“Why don’t we ask Cedar Corp. and inVenture North to come and do presentations and make an offer,” Ginger Deschane said

Anderson praised Lefebvre, but said he has too much on his plate to direct community and economic development by himself.

“He works with staff in the courthouse like I’ve never see in my 12-years and four-years (stints) on this board,” he said. “But he can’t do this himself.”