Claremore Daily Progress

January 31, 2014

Strategic Planning: CIEDA, City discuss future priorities

Rebecca Hattaway
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

Members of the Claremore City Council and Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority (CIEDA) met Wednesday night for a strategic planning retreat led by Jeri Koehler, director of Rogers State University’s Innovation Center.
The purpose of the meeting was to develop goals for Claremore’s economic development in the short term and long term, and to continue building collaboration between the two groups.
Both agreed that the relationship has had its challenges in the past, with inconsistent funding and unclear direction from the city.
“We don’t have a vision,” City Manager Jim Thomas said of CIEDA, but noted that work was being done to change that.
“I think we’re looking at an opportunity with CIEDA and the city working together,” said Rob Melton, CIEDA board member. “We’ve got a lot of pull, but we’ve been pulling in opposite directions. If we start pulling together, we’ll have a lot more power.”
“Right now there is a pretty unified council behind CIEDA,” said city councilor Mark Lepak.
City planner and interim CIEDA director Jill Ferenc took it a step further, saying she would like to see “integrated partnerships” between the city, CIEDA, Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau and Main Street.
“Because none of us can do it all,” she said.
The group spent time brainstorming CIEDA’s vision through the year 2020, and discussed its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Their vision for the future included being self-funded; having greater industrial, commercial and retail development with a regional approach; and securing more public/private partnerships.
They said CIEDA’s greatest strengths were developed industrial land, a capable city staff and leadership, and abundant tourism.
Conversely, CIEDA’s weaknesses were noted to be inconsistent funding, no permanent director, and limited housing opportunities within city limits.
“There are no buildable lots,” said CIEDA’s Jeff Jensen. “Our executives aren’t living here; we have no housing. We’re losing those people because we have no housing.”
He said that although CIEDA’s mission is attracting jobs, if there is no housing available for the people who will work at those jobs, “it’s not helping us; it’s not helping us with sales tax.”
The participants agreed that opportunities exist in the future with new hotel and restaurant development.
“There is an excitement in the business community,” said Phil Albert, incoming CIEDA chair. “People want to be a part of the vision and growth...that wasn’t there a year ago.”
They also recognized the need to combat inaction.
“We need to finally conquer the Oklahoma Plaza,” Albert said. “We’ve got to see a real conclusion to that project.”
New council member Will DeMier said it’s one of the three questions he is asked over and over by citizens.
“I hear, ‘Why don’t we have a Chick-fil-A?’; ‘Why don’t we have a Panera?’; and ‘What’s going on at Oklahoma Plaza?’” he said.
The group agreed that in order to address the challenges head on, its top priority going forward should be hiring a nationally-recognized executive director for CIEDA, who will be able to make significant headway in bringing industrial, commercial and retail prospects to Claremore.
In the coming weeks, CIEDA’s finance committee will meet to determine a salary and benefits package for the position. Thomas will draft a job description.
The board will then decide how to go about finding a qualified candidate from a national pool.
“We think we can get a better qualified candidate, if they work directly for the city and serve as the executive director of CIEDA,” Jensen said. 
Albert agreed: “I think this person should clearly work for the city. I think our role as a board should be advisory.”
The plan will be discussed further at the next CIEDA meeting on Feb. 19.
In the meantime, the CIEDA board agreed to another session with Koehler to discuss additional priorities in more detail.
“I’m excited about the people sitting around this table and the ideas we’ve discussed,” Thomas said. “I think this is ripe for success because now we’ve heard each other talk and know what our priorities are.”