The Knoxville City Council met in special session Monday afternoon to discuss the roles of the new Economic Development Council (EDC), but the discussion quickly turned to goals for the City. The top one is a new industrial park.
Creation of an EDC is required by a 28E agreement the City entered into with Knoxville Water Works. Each entity has donated $25,000 to a fund to spur economic development in Knoxville. The EDC will oversee and administer these funds.
A representative from the Water Works was present at Monday's meeting. He indicated that the Water Works would be open to "any and all suggestions" from the council regarding the EDC's composition and functions.
The council does not believe that $50,000 is enough money to perform the functions expected of the EDC. The EDC will be expected to seek private donations and grants to assist with projects.
City Manager Harold Stewart suggested that the council should have a new industrial park, prepared to welcome businesses interested in locating in Knoxville, within five years. As the discussion went on, Councilor Carolyn Formanek agreed that ideas and suggestions would best be facilitated with a new industrial park.
Knoxville's previous attempt at an industrial park assisted in the location and development of Weiler, a manufacturing business located on the south end of town on Highway 14. Weiler took over a spec building and has since continued to grow.
Stewart suggested the council decide what development it would like to see come to town and design the industrial park around it.
"You don't want to be too specific," he also cautioned.
Discussion continued about the creation of a "gasoline alley" in Knoxville, an area to cater to racing manufacturers and other related businesses. No specific location for the "gasoline alley" was mentioned, but discussion also took place regarding development on the VA property.
Councilor Tim Pitt said that regardless of whom the EDC tries to bring to Knoxville, prospective business owners will talk to existing entrepreneurs in town. They will ask how businesses are currently treated, promoted and supported.
"Somebody needs to step up," Pitt said. "I guess if that has to be us, it has to be us."
Councilor April Verwers believes spreading the word about investments in Knoxville, including expansion, is the responsibility of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce.
Stewart is preparing a request for proposal for the City's new website. He intends to have it ready by July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, and the website is included in the budget. Stewart did not want to begin the process until there was funding in place.
As for the creation and composition of the EDC, Stewart said he has briefly spoken with a representative from similar organizations from Pella and Marion County.
"Now that I have a general direction from the council, I will be doing further research and will give the council recommendations that meet their objective," Stewart said. "That research will include finding out how other communities have structured and financed their commissions."