Future of Monona Chamber and Economic Development discussed
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
With the termination of Executive Director Joseph Moses earlier this year, the Monona Chamber and Economic Development was cast astray. On March 20, some of the board members sat down with the Monona City Council to get a bearing on the situation and figure out, together, what is needed and wanted for a future position.
Over the past year, board member Brent Formanek said the chamber’s main focus was on promoting the sale of Jodi’s, helping with a business incentive package and the downtown façade project, developing Main Street signage to get more visibility for downtown businesses and promoting events like the haunted house, Hay Days and the winter carnival.
Moving forward, the group agreed that Monona should still have a chamber and economic development office and position, but that the position should now be part-time rather than full-time.
“We really need someone who’s self-motivated,” said Mayor Barb Collins. “This is a type of job where you sometimes put hours in and see nothing from it immediately. It’s hard to measure results.”
Collins also said she would like to see someone who is Internet savvy and could spice up the Monona Chamber and Economic Development website.
Councilman John Elledge said his ideal candidate would be goal-oriented, results-driven and enthusiastic, but acknowledged that someone like that may be difficult to find.
“Money doesn’t buy that,” he said, explaining that no problems will be fixed by simply throwing money at the situation. “Behavior drives it. Accountability and responsibility.”
Meeting attendee Jim Moritz suggested that the position should focus less on event promotion and organization and more on long-range, realistic projects.
“With events, there are no long-lasting effects on the community,” he said. “Certainly promotion is important, but pass the organization along to some other groups.”
He also suggested that the city consider speaking with other neighboring cities to see if they might be interested in sharing a position.
No matter who is hired, both the board and council agreed that communication will be paramount, with the employee being accountable to the city in some way, possibly in the form of a monthly director’s report to the council. Elledge said that communication is a two-way street.
“As a council, we are equally responsible for these things,” he said. “We need to address the breakdown in communication and get going in the same direction. There needs to be a commitment to communication.”
The group also discussed some ways to move Monona forward economically. Councilman Dan Havlicek said he would rather the city stay away from pursuing industry and instead focus on improving housing, which would complement some of the city’s strong suits, like the school district, pool and downtown. He said bringing in stores like Dollar General would also be good for Monona, as people would be able to shop more in town.
Moritz said the city would be wise to expand healthy living and recreation opportunities in order to attract economic growth.
“We have to decide if we want to work on the walking and bike trail or the BMX park for the kids,” Collins agreed. “People might have to drive to work in Prairie, but Monona’s a great place to live. People don’t always realize how much you can find in Monona.”
The group also wants to look at existing businesses and help them expand.
“We need to support them,” Elledge said of the carpentry- and beauty salon-rich community. “We don’t want to take for granted what we have.”
For the time being, the council suggested that the board bring in a few new members and formulate some goals and a gameplan. Then the city will look at filling the position.