Commerce Lexington should have to work harder for its more than half-million city dollars by participating in more city meetings, several Urban County Council members suggested Thursday.
The council's economic development task force discussed ways to make sure all organizations working toward economic development keep in constant contact. But council members split on just how to do that, or indeed whether Commerce Lexington is already doing an adequate job of promoting economic development without stepped-up appearances at council meetings.
"They're just starting up their program. ... These are long-term initiatives," 12th District council member Ed Lane said.
Commerce Lexington was founded in January 2004 with great fanfare, uniting Lexington's Chamber of Commerce with the city's private and economic workforce development agencies.
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Banker Luther Deaton, then chairman of the organization, said that Commerce Lexington would become a potent lobbying force for the Lexington area in attracting businesses and retaining businesses already in Fayette County.
But 11th District council member Peggy Henson said she is bothered by the lack of information she receives about Commerce Lexington activities: "It really bothers me to know that Commerce Lexington is getting several thousand dollars and it's very hard to see results."
Diane Lawless, who represents the 3rd council district, suggested that Lexington's city government should develop an economic development plan encompassing all agencies that work for job development and better quality of life for Lexington.
"Everything is about economic development," said Andrea James, who represents the 1st council district. Even the council's committee structure, she said, could be altered so that committees are formed that represent the various aspects of a unified economic plan.
Several council members have recently questioned where the city's economic development efforts are headed and suggested that the city might want to establish a bigger, more centralized presence to lead its efforts to draw new jobs and hold onto existing industry.
"I would like to see more of a coordinated, clear vision," Lawless said. "I would like to see clear goals and measurable outcomes from both the Downtown Development Authority and Commerce Lexington ... and all our city departments."
Commerce Lexington has gotten major support in city dollars: In fiscal 2007, it received $240,490, but that amount jumped to $661,500 in fiscal 2008. In fiscal 2009, the city appropriation to Commerce Lexington dropped to $549,650; for fiscal 2010, which started July 1, it's slated to receive $522,170.