Central contact: Finding the right fit for economic development

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008
— Milton's success a year after merging three public and private development and tourism groups could provide a model for Evansville leaders.

Evansville city officials, chamber of commerce members and business leaders met for a Monday luncheon in the first of a series of informational "interviews" of area economic development organizations.

The featured group: Milton Area Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Tourism, or MACCIT.

The top goal in Evansville's recently adopted economic development plan calls for the creation of an alliance or organization to reduce duplication and to lead economic growth.

Development issues now are addressed at several groups: the city economic development committee, the city redevelopment authority, the chamber of commerce and the Evansville Community Partnership.

That creates confusion, developer Roger Berg said.

"What does the chamber do? What does ECP do? What does economic development do?" he said. "Having served on all of those committees—some of them for many, many years—there's even confusion on the committee what they do."

That's why Evansville is looking to its slightly larger neighbors to the east.

MACCIT last year merged the Milton industrial and economic development committee, the tourism development committee and the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce to create a marketing arm and main contact for development, executive director Christina Slaback said.

Slaback is MACCIT's one full-time staff member, working along with a seasonal, part-time intern.

Having someone in a full-time position reduces duplicate connections and provides a focus for inquiries, Slaback said.

"We've found it's much more efficient," she said. "There is one central contact. If somebody wants information about Milton, they call one office. Before, if you had a question about a specific event or something that is going on in the community, you might have to go through a few different organizations."

Slaback and Rock County Economic Development Manager James Otterstein described MACCIT's structure and its accomplishments.

The public-private organization of 154 members has its about $100,000 budgeted and financed through membership dues, events and city funds. When MACCIT formed last year, it planned for city funding to decreasing over three years and to eventually become self-sustaining, Slaback said.

MACCIT has three committees: economic development, member services and tourism and events.

MACCIT attracted more businesses to participate, and the number of volunteers also increased, Slaback said.

Evansville is planning more sessions, which might include Forward Janesville and the Wisconsin Main Street program.

Last updated: 10:37 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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