Commissioners talk economy, jobs grants with county’s mayors

SEBASTIAN–Four Indian River County Commissioners sat down with four of the county’s municipal mayors at a joint meeting held in Sebastian to discuss the economy and how the cities can help spark more growth.

From offering municipal job grants to helping with county advertising, the group of eight hashed out different ways to continue attracting businesses – and jobs – to the county and individual municipalities.

Sebastian Mayor Jim Hill told commissioners that from where he sits, it is not likely that his council would be comfortable with throwing $30,000 to the county on a hope that the money would help.

Fellsmere Mayor Susan Adams agreed.

“Do we have the money?” she asked rhetorically. “Many of us don’t right now.”

Instead of asking the municipalities to contribute funds into a general pot for economic development – as the mayors had originally considered – Commissioner Wesley Davis suggested that they set aside fund for their own jobs grant program.

He offered the municipalities the county’s jobs grant application as a basis for their own and said that the double-grant possibility could help entice businesses to not only move into the county, but into the cities and towns, as well.

The county offers jobs grants to new and expanding businesses that offer a certain number of positions that pay a certain amount. Depending on how much more a position pays, a business can receive more in grant funds.

Those funds are paid over three-year period and only after proof that the stated number of jobs and stated salaries have been established.

Davis also recommended that the municipalities remain open to working with the county in landing a big business, explaining that if “Business A” wants to move in and it has certain needs, the municipalities might be able to help the county in providing for those needs.

“We did it on Piper,” Davis said.

Fellow Commissioner Peter O’Bryan told the mayors of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Orchid and Indian River Shores that one of the biggest things they could do is network – to talk to the decision-makers of corporations and businesses and tell them about their municipality and the county.

Commission Chairman Bob Solari added that now is the time to start building business relationships – not after a business has already made a decision to make a move.

Indian River Shores Mayor Bill Kenyon and Orchid Mayor Richard Dunlop both mentioned that while their towns do not have much room for industrial development, they do have a number of residents who have the means to invest in businesses as well as have contacts in various business sectors.

“Maybe I should make a few phone calls,” Dunlop said.

Kenyon later suggested he and Dunlop throw a little get-together with some of their residents to talk up the business possibilities in Indian River County.

Commissioner Joe Flescher told the gathered elected officials that part of the economic troubles the county is in stems from the charter government movement four or five years back.

He added, though, that the state of the economy today has helped prompt the governments to come together.

“We’ve driven back to grass-roots,” Fleschers said.

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