Sebastian council: ‘We all need to be ambassadors’ of economic growth

SEBASTIAN – Sebastian City Council members plan to take an active role in cultivating businesses in the city – by serving as liaisons between business representatives and the city’s economic development director.

“We all need to be ambassadors,” Councilwoman Andrea Coy said during a discussion at a recent council meeting.

Mayor Richard Gillmor asked for input from his fellow members on what they should do if a business approaches them about moving into the city, later adding that if there is anything the city can do to bring jobs to the area, the city should do it.

Because the council operates in the open under Florida Sunshine Law, council members cannot talk amongst themselves about a certain business that has approached one of them except at a council meeting.

Many businesses, however, require confidentiality from local governments when they are in the beginning stages of negotiations.

“It’s a proven factor in the business world,” Councilman Don Wright said.

The council members agreed they would talk to any business that approached and then refer them to either Joe Griffin, the city’s economic development director, or City Manager Al Minner.

They could also refer the business to other members on the council who may have more knowledge about that business’s industry.

“We each, I think, could act in our own area of expertise,” Gillmor said.

Councilman Eugene Wolff said that while he would be open to talking to potential incoming businesses, the less he – and government – is involved, the better for everyone.

“I don’t want to get pulled into the project,” he said, explaining that he would not want for that business to ask him to recommend an architect, an engineer or others.

Wolff said he would prefer to pass the business representative along to Griffin or Minner who are equipped to help the business get established in the city.

Coy said the council members would need to be careful of what they say to the business and reminded them that they are but one vote on the council.

Wright told the council that in the last few weeks, he has referred two potential businesses to Griffin – one of which might be a good fit at the Sebastian Municipal Airport.

He has also introduced a large property owner to Minner, he said.

Wright, a commercial real estate broker, told the council that he would not represent any land purchases involving city-owned land.

However, if a business were interested in locating on private property, he would be willing to represent that deal and recuse himself from any vote on the dais if needed.

“We can’t cut any deals,” Wright said of individual council members working with the businesses.

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