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Minot City Council debates language in Minot Area Chamber EDC contract

Council debates MACEDC agreement language

The language in an agreement with the Minot Area Chamber EDC was a subject of debate for members of the Minot City Council Monday.

The council voted 5-2 to approve a professional services agreement with MACEDC that will provide the economic development organization with an additional $246,375 for the remainder of the year. In January, the council had approved a three-month agreement for $82,125 as a temporary measure while MACEDC completed its organizational phase.

The Minot Area Chamber of Commerce and Minot Area Development Corp. merged in January.

MACEDC also receives economic development funding from Ward County and member investors. Executive Director John MacMartin said the investor pool diminished somewhat last year due to COVID-19.

“The dollars that we get from the city are segregated, and they will continue to be spent on recruiting and bringing people to town,” MacMartin said. He said in the past few months, MACEDC has responded to a handful of site selectors who inquired about properties in Minot. However, the largest effort in the past few months has gone to supporting the intermodal port that started up with a new operator last October.

Council member Carrie Evans cited the lack of measurable outcomes and deliverables in the proposed MACEDC agreement.

“There’s a lot of vagueness,” she said. “The specifics we get will be after the fact, which is disturbing because the money will already have been spent.

“This kind of language is not satisfying to me or to taxpayers on the use of their money. While I think there probably is a very good list of specific measurable outcomes, they’re not here,” she added.

Council member Paul Pitner also voiced concern about awarding money without knowing how it will be spent.

“The port is a big thing. It’s a big win and it needs to happen. It’ll be huge for our community. But there’s not enough in here for me to support this at this point,” he said of the agreement.

“I agree fully that there needs to be accountability and transparency with regard to these public funds,” City Manager Harold Stewart said. However, he added, because MACEDC is a new agency, there hasn’t been time to develop a comprehensive, strategic economic plan for the community.

“Without that in place, it’s hard to really determine what the measurables are,” he said. “We also don’t understand what the role is going to be of MACEDC going forward, and without understanding that role, it’s hard to develop what those measurements are. And so, I view this as a nine-month contract that gives us some time to have some of those community conversations.”

Stewart said he will be asking the council to engage in a work session in May to discuss economic development and hear his thoughts on a potential game plan.

Jonn Knecht, chairman of the MACEDC board, mentioned 11 strategic initiatives recently developed by the board. The council voted to attach those strategic initiatives to the contract.

Evans and Pitner voted against the contract. Voting for it were Sipma, Lisa Olson, Mark Jantzer, Stephan Podrygula and Tom Ross.

The agreement includes a new yearly subscription to an electronic listing service recommended by Stewart that will aid site selectors in reviewing available Minot properties. The council defeated an amendment that would have shifted the $4,500 cost for the program from the city to MACEDC. Only Evans and Pitner supported the amendment.

MacMartin said his intent has been to ask the MACEDC board to approve paying the subscription expense internally. The cost is separate from the $328,500 the city has agreed to pay MACEDC for 2021.

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