New Dover economic panel sets priorities in first meeting

City of Dover sealDOVER — Future business growth in Dover now lies largely in the hands of city leaders as the newly formed Economic Development Committee (EDC) met for the first time at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

The committee replaces the city’s Economic Development Office, which was dissolved along with three full-time positions during a Special City Council Budget Review Meeting on May 26.

The EDC currently consists of five members, including Mayor Robin Christiansen, who will serve as the committee chairman in a non-voting role; Scott Koenig, city manager (or his designee); William Hare, chairman of city council’s Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee; Gregory Moore, president of the Downtown Dover Partnership (or a designee), and Ann Marie Townshend, city planner.

Their first meeting was a time to iron out many administrative issues.

“We’re headed in the right direction. We’re reinventing the wheel here but the wheel is still turning the way that it’s supposed to,” Mayor Christiansen said. “We’ve got a lot of businesses that are already opening up and potential inquiries already.

“We just want to make sure that first off we do everything legal and up front in compliance with what is in the best interest of the citizens and taxpayers of the city of Dover. We may appear a little bit discombobulated right now but we’re still rolling along and making progress.”

One of the issues discussed at the first meeting of the EDC was to ask the city council to add a fifth voting member to the committee. It was suggested that Councilman Scott Cole, chairman of council’s utility committee, be allowed to vote on economic development issues.

A proposed resolution was also reviewed that will formally establish the Economic Development Committee.

It stated that “a strong and robust local economy is essential to the quality of life of all residents of the city of Dover and its surrounding community. It is vital that the city pursue sound and innovative strategies to promote growth, attract investment, create and protect jobs and support existing businesses and enterprises.”

The proposed resolution went on to say the EDC will:

• Promote the economic interests of the city of Dover, formulate recommendations to council and staff and coordinate with staff, other government bodies and institutions, the business community and the public on economic development matters.

• Provide monthly reports to city council.

The committee elected to strike a middle line from the proposed resolution that stated, “Authorize the city manager to enter into contracts with respect to economic development on behalf of the city with a majority vote of its members.”

Committee members said that larger contracts should receive city council approval, especially if they are not minor things such as advertising that could easily be paid with the mayor’s economic development budget.

City Council President Tim Slavin said the Economic Development Committee was formed because “there appeared to be a lack of cohesiveness between what the city was doing in regards to economic development and what was being done with the DDP.”

“That’s one of the reasons the committee was set up was to have a representative of the Downtown Dover Partnership on this Economic Development Committee,” Mayor Christiansen said, “because the entirety of our economic development efforts, both downtown and throughout the rest of the city, are ultimately based on what’s successful for the city of Dover in providing jobs for our citizens and tax revenues and revenues for our enterprise fund.

“So that’s the ultimate goal, whether it be downtown or out on the highway or someplace else in Dover. Our goal is the same so that’s why they’re partnered with us.”

The EDC will next meet on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 4 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall.

Ms. Townshend said she’ll be happy to be there. After all, it helps her keep her pulse on the growth of the city.

“The Planning Office has always been involved in economic development because we’re kind of the gatekeeper to the development process, so we’re always working with developers to try to help them navigate the process,” said Ms. Townshend. “The earlier we’re pulled in, the better it is for everybody because that way they don’t get too far out.

“It [The EDC] probably adds some work [to the planning office] but not in an exponential way.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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