Current makeup of board and their particular expertise –
President – Pat LaForge – President of Laforge and Budd Construction – Valuable contributor to the group because of knowledge of construction and it’s costs, as well as being a large employer in the area. LaForge and Budd has partnered with JOBS and the City in the past in the construction of “spec” industrial buildings to have in inventory for the attraction of new industry. LaForge and Budd was also a major contributor of funds in the initial fundraising effort. Pat also serves as a director on the Parsons Community Foundation.
Vice President – Bob Wood – President of Wood-Dulohery Insurance, Inc, and Wood-Dulohery Real Estate (formerly Seaton-Wood) – Involved in Economic Development efforts in Parsons for over 20 years. Currently serving as Vice Chair of the Great Plains Development Authority, and a founding member of the effort for the transfer of the KAAP property, Served as Co-Chairman of the Redevelopment Task Force formed in the aftermath of the Tornado, and led redevelopment efforts for the downtown renovation, Served as co-chairman of the bond issue campaign for renovation of Parsons Middle School, led task force on two occasions to oppose closure of PSHTC, past President and long term director of Parsons Chamber of Commerce, and founding board member of Downtown Parsons, Inc. Has direct involvement with outside prospects as they tour the community for site selection, as well as explaining housing options for owners and employees that would relocate to Parsons.
Treasurer – Ray Jacquinot, Vice President of Commercial Bank – One of the more recent additions to the board, taking over for Phil Eaton, who had served since the beginning. The local banks need to have a strong presence in this group, as they have come to the table with many “joint venture” funding vehicles for projects in the past. One of the local banks will act as “lead lender”, but all of the institutions involved share in the risk of a loan. Loans have been made to construct buildings, buy property, or simply operational funding to assist companies create more jobs. Commercial Bank was a major contributor in the original JOBS fund drive.
Secretary – Bob Bartelli. Bob is the only founding member of the JOBS board that still serves on the board. He, along with Dick Dearth, Jerry Carson, Chuck Brown, Gary Seaton and a few others that I’m sure I’m forgetting, were the leaders that came up with the idea of JOBS and had the drive to organize and solicit the funding needed to make it work. Gary Seaton was an original board member of JOBS and the firm was a major contributor of funding for JOBS, Inc. It’s hard to go ask your friends to donate $5,000, $10,000, even $20,000 to a cause like this, but they did it and raised almost $700,000. Bob has the experience of all decisions made in the past about JOBS activities, as well as knowledge of the city’s economic development strategies as they relate to a local business that needs help expanding, or just maintaining, as well as new prospective companies that may want to locate here. It is important to have this tie in, because there are some things that the city just can’t do, and that is where an entity like JOBS becomes valuable in the process.
Director – Montie Taylor – President of Great Southern Bank, Parsons – Montie has been a long term member of this board, and his bank has been involved in many positive ventures, as noted above, to help provide jobs. Montie serves as a Trustee of LCC, and as a director of the GPDA. There aren’t many volunteer organizations in Parsons that he hasn’t been involved with in some capacity. The First National Bank was a major contributor to the initial JOBS effort.
Director – Ann Charles – Deputy Director of GPDA- Past editor and publisher of Parsons Sun –Ann has been heavily involved in all things around Parsons for some time. During her time at the paper, she became very involved in the political systems, both on a statewide and national basis. She can pick up the phone and have a conversation with the Governor, or any of our Senators or Reps in DC. She was very involved in the last comprehensive highway plan that led to the construction of HWY 400. Transportation is very important in economic development decisions, and having the right contacts in Topeka and Washington help. It is also very important that the efforts of the GPDA align with the activities of the city’s eco devo department, and the efforts of JOBS, to make sure that everyone is moving in the same direction, and not duplicating efforts. The Parsons Sun was a major contributor to the initial effort.
Director – Rich Proehl – See above about financial and political. Rich covers both. Vice President of Labette Bank, and current State Representative. Labette has been involved in the joint ventures mentioned above and was a contributor in the initial effort.
Director – George Knox – President LCC – The president of the college has always had a seat on the board. Any issues regarding workforce training can involve the college, and assistance has been given to prospects in the past. The college is also a large employer in our community.
Director – John Kelly – Plant Manager – DuCommun Aero Structures – John is a recent addition to the board, and was asked to join to bring manufacturing expertise to the board. Knowledge of issues ranging from workforce quality and training, transportation and shipping, utility costs and availability, etc. create the need for this voice at the table.
Director – William Mahoney – Labette Health Administrator (resigned while I was working on this) – The hospital has a huge impact on economic development, both as an industry in itself, and as a contributor to the “quality of life” issues that make Parsons a desirable community to locate your company in. Recently, Dr Welch acquired a company in Texas and relocated their jobs to Parsons, which is a perfect example of the medical community tie to Eco Devo. The improvements being made at the hospital, along with ongoing successful programs, are a large economic contributor to the community. The hospital is also a large provider of jobs to the community.
Ex-Officio Members of the board; City Manager – currently Fred Gress, City Economic Development Director – Carolyn Kennett, President of Chamber of Commerce
Read more, plus commentary here->
The directors serve three year terms and are voted on by the membership of the organization at its annual meeting held in January. As I mentioned before, the members are anyone who has donated to the organization in the past. You can become a member of the organization by making a donation.
Why the group was formed, including its relationship with the City from the beginning;
I mentioned the group earlier, including Bob Bartelli and the others. Simply, they were a group of businessmen, and women, who met for breakfast at the Parsonian and lunch at Leroy’s and discussed the need for an organized effort to address some of the negative issues Parsons was facing because of the closure or decline of our major employers. Day and Zimmerman had cut back extensively on employment, eliminating around 1,000 jobs. The Katy had announced the closure of the back shops, eliminating another 300 or so jobs. Not only was this a large number of jobs, the jobs paid really well. Something needed to be done to encourage companies to come to Parsons and pick up the slack.
I’m working from memory, so the exact chronology may be a bit off, but after the funds were raised, JOBS and the City joined forces and hired the first economic development director for Parsons. JOBS paid half and the city paid half. Around the same time, the Union Pacific paid the city $1,000,000 as an offset for moving the jobs away from Parsons, so an economic development “war chest” was created. I haven’t read the actual published budget/account balance report from the city lately, but I think much of that $1m is still in the bank, after having been loaned, granted, etc, then paid back in many of the cases. The jointly hired eco/devo person had the funding from the UP and the money JOBS had accumulated for job creation. The department worked in this manner for a few years until it was determined that the city needed to take a more active role in development. A sales tax was voted on and passed to support the eco/devo department and the city took on the expense in total. I can’t remember the first guy’s name, but then it was Gerald Winterscheidt, then Chuck Brown and Roger Area split the job until Carolyn Kennett was hired. You mentioned in the letter to the paper that JOBS and the city were intertwined, or attached, or the same. In the beginning, they were. In a large part they still are, as the city manager, eco devo director, and a commissioner all have input on the board. I don’t see that as a bad thing. We all need to work together.
Activities involving direct assistance with local employers;
The organization has purchased buildings, then resold them to industries, for instance the current location of Babcock Manufacturing in Industrial Park #1 ( the old Mobil Freeze building). The building was available for sale, and JOBS bought it to hold for a prospect that would create jobs. As the Babcock’s started their business, they needed space for the granite finishing operation. JOBS sold that building to them at a reduced price, and with attractive terms to assist them. Their business has been a great success and a positive addition to the community.
We’ve had other situations with local employers who have come to the city with “requests” for assistance, basically saying that if the requests aren’t satisfied, the business will be forced to move employees to facilities in other towns, or close down completely. Often times, these requests end up being reported in the media by the city offering a grant to improve the parking lot, or build handicap accessible entrances or bathrooms, or some other reasonable method of getting funding to the employer. Some would call some of these requests extortion, and some are justified. In some of the cases, no one wanted to take a chance by saying no. In many of these cases, JOBS has stepped up and covered the amounts that the city could not reasonably justify. This is why there is a need for a private organization This is the part of economic development that never gets publicized. It’s just as important to keep the jobs we have as it is to help our current employers expand and attract new employers to the community, just not as pretty.
MY COMMENTS ~
These people are certainly the ‘movers and shakers’ in the community. They are all fine people who have contributed much to the community, individually and as a group.
I believe that collectively, they may represent the most powerful group in town, if not in the entire county! And they (or at least Bob) seems to feel that’s a good thing. “You mentioned in the letter to the paper that JOBS and the city were intertwined, or attached, or the same. In the beginning, they were. In a large part they still are, as the city manager, eco devo director, and a commissioner all have input on the board. I don’t see that as a bad thing. We all need to work together.“-Bob Wood
Even though I understand this is ‘just the way things are’, I find this disturbing! What’s so disturbing? The fact that “We all need to work together.” does not include the taxpayer!
More from Bob – “I haven’t read the actual published budget/account balance report from the city lately, but I think much of that $1m is still in the bank, after having been loaned, granted, etc, then paid back in many of the cases.”
Now lets get this straight. This group has done good things, no doubt. All of these members have given tremendous amounts of time and money, to lots of great causes. To that, I say thank you. There is a good chance that you’ve made Parsons a better place, and my family benefits from that.
But once again, I do find this disturbing. By their own account, they still have ONE MILLION dollars in the bank. And now they (the intertwined City govt./JOBS group) decides to vote themselves $30,000 of our tax money? And they feel that’s ‘just good business’ and ‘working together’!
How many more times will they be needing more city money, without my (your) input?
As I asked in a former opinion; “Just good business, or the height of hubris?” YOU TELL ME!