The Citywide Development Corp. is ready to start quarterbacking local development projects.
Consultant Cindy Gormley yesterday urged the organization to take a leadership role in local economic development by stepping up communication and coordinating efforts of local agencies seeking development grants.
Through her discussions with state funding officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Gormley said, she learned that several local development agencies are applying for the same grants. This lack of coordination, she said, diminishes the chances of any Lawrence County agency to receive funds.
The agency, which organized last year, has created a website to establish itself as a “single point of contact” site for businesses and others seeking information on the city, surrounding areas and how it could fit into plans to locate here.
A single agency, such as the development corporation, could coordinate and provide oversight for local efforts, as well as do an occasional project itself, she said.
Gormley also pointed out that any development effort done on behalf of the city should be run past the mayor and city council “just to let everyone know what everyone is doing,” she said. “This is what is in your bylaws.”
Chairman Tim Fulkerson, who is a member of city council, said he keeps council and the mayor up to date on what the agency is doing. He said the development agency would not “act as a bully” regarding others’ efforts, but said the state prefers the single point of contact approach.
“This could help us as we apply for Keystone Communities, Main Street and other grants,” he said, adding that council and the mayor might be able to provide letters of support and/or matching funds if needed. on a project that benefits the city.
Board members agreed.
“A lot of well-intended people are applying for funds and not succeeding,” said board member Dale Turner. He proposed that the agency “quarterback” efforts by coordinating efforts and keeping agencies as well as elected officials up to date on proposed plans, projects and grant applications rather than remain fragmented as is currently the case.
Fulkerson said the agency will send letters to organizations and agencies involved in development and grant writing and propose that all communicate with the Citywide Development agency to coordinate their efforts and collaborate on projects in an effort to improve chances of success.
“We’re a nonprofit agency,” he said. ‘This is what we do If someone has a project, let us help.”
The agency also agreed to join Main Street America for $350 per year. Membership in this national agency, Gormley said, could inform the agency of available federal community development fungs and qualify it to apply for them. It would also put the city’s development agency in touch with similar agencies across the country who are doing the same things.
The development agency also heard some of the current projects and plans of DON Services which is developing portions of the Lower East Side.