MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

May 16, 2014

Economic development entity needed

Muskogee city councilors should create an economic development arm of the city.

Ward IV Councilor the Rev. Marlon Coleman, who presented the idea to councilors recently, said there is a need to recruit retail and service-sector businesses and related jobs.

Coleman said there is a huge market the city could tap with the right program in place.

“There is a whole market out there for job growth and job opportunities and things we may focus on as a city if we were set up to capture that type of business market,” Coleman said.

“It would be to our benefit if we had paid staff or professional staff to ... make recommendations on how the city ... could gain and maintain a competitive edge.”

Muskogee has many needs that government could address if it had the money — from cleaning up the city to increasing the police force.

Roughly two-thirds of the city budget comes from retail sales tax revenue.

If this city is to address any needs, it must have additional funds.

Those funds could be found through expanding our sales tax revenue base.

That means adding more businesses and getting more people to shop at those local businesses.

Every dollar spent on retail or service-sector businesses creates a return the city can use to govern.

While the city has the Port Authority to help attract and retain industry jobs, the city does not have a strong organization to attract retail or service jobs.

Coleman’s idea has strong merit.

Creating a staff whose sole job is to create economic development opportunities deserves strong consideration.

A staff that answers to the city manager, who answers to the City Council, creates a full-time focus on one of our city’s top concerns — creating more funds to improve the city.

Implementing the idea would formalize an approach and create more accountability.

Councilors would be able to review the work and have direct input.

City Manager Howard Brown Jr. was directed to explore Coleman’s idea and bring a proposal for councilors to review.

Brown is scheduled to present those ideas in about 90 days.

We are anxious to see Brown’s take on Coleman’s presentation.

While there are many details to sort out — including how to create salaries for the staff — the idea deserves a thorough examination by the council.

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