City may demand more from EDC

OLYMPIA - The Thurston County Economic Development Council likely will work a little bit harder for the $10,000 a year it receives from the City of Olympia, a step proposed by a city councilman to make sure the city is getting the best return for its money.

City Councilman Stephen Buxbaum has proposed that funds for the EDC be administered through a performance-based contract. Details of the contract must be worked out, Buxbaum and EDC Executive Director Michael Cade said this week, but Buxbaum shared some of those contract ideas in a budget memo to the city’s finance committee last month.

According to the memo, the contract could require collaboration with the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau and Enterprise for Equity, “helping to stabilize and promote their new business startups.” Enterprise for Equity is an Olympia nonprofit that works with people, including those with limited incomes and disabilities, who want to start a business.

Other potential performance measures could include:

 • The number, scale and monetary contribution of new events downtown.

 • The number, scale and monetary contribution of new startup businesses assisted.

 • The number of placements made in empty or under-used downtown retail spaces and office buildings.

Buxbaum said the city already has agreed on a $10,000 allocation for the EDC when it adopted the 2011 budget this month; up next is to draft the contract and to get it reviewed and approved by the council early next year. In an era of tighter budgets, it’s important that the city is clear on what it expects from its financing efforts, he said.

“My point is to be clearer on what we’re getting on our return on investment,” Buxbaum said. “In all our contract work, we need to head in this direction.”

Cade welcomed the idea of a performance-based contract and said it wasn’t too dissimilar from past contracts with the city, which typically have been “outcomes”-based, he said. Cade acknowledged that Buxbaum’s proposals were a little more focused on promoting downtown through business recruitment.

“We want to make sure we are serving the city well and it gives us a good road map to work on,” Cade said.

The EDC receives funding from the public, which includes cities in Thurston County; the county itself and the state; members who join the EDC; and events the EDC has staged and grant funds, Cade said. Lacey’s contribution to the EDC is $25,000, he said.

The EDC budget was about $590,000 in 2010 and is projected to be about $630,000 next year, he said.

Some of the work the EDC has done for Olympia includes maintaining a database for downtown real estate, promoting downtown through its annual real estate forum and offering classes on starting a business at the downtown library branch, Cade said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403