By Dan Hust
FERNDALE The Sullivan County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is no more.
During a mostly private meeting Friday at the CVI Building in Ferndale, the EDC’s board voted unanimously to dissolve the corporation.
An idea first formed 40 years back, it was reconstituted by former Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis two years ago as an attempt to better the communication between the various local groups engaged in spurring the county’s economic development.
But current Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson envisioned a looser group of advisors, which he felt would be easier and more effective.
“The overriding issue was it [the EDC] was very encumbered,” he explained after Friday’s vote.
Some members had told the board they didn’t feel such a formal organization was necessary, and some privately blamed the public nature of the EDC as reducing its effectiveness.
At Friday’s final meeting, the board met in private executive session, ostensibly for legal advice, but it turned out to be more of a closed-door strategy session on how to move forward.
Afterwards, Samuelson denied there was an attempt to hide anything.
“There is no conspiracy,” he stated. “We’re trying to get something done here.”
Something he feels will benefit the county and streamline the economic development process.
“This advisory board will be a volunteer group that will act as a ‘think tank’ to advise the Legislature on economic development,” he said in a statement released that day.
It will have a particular focus on agriculture and tourism, though as an advisory group, it will meet privately with Samuelson.
Much of the post-EDC’s work may turn out to be on-the-ground efforts. Samuelson explained that, for example, when a business comes to the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development for help, it will also be put in touch with members of the advisory group to help it through what could otherwise be a confusing and piecemeal process.
Samuelson called it “a private-sector, grassroots kind of thing,” with the group primarily composed of board members (and not necessarily the executive directors) of the Partnership, the Center for Workforce Development, the Chamber of Commerce, the Visitors Association and the Industrial Development Agency.