Milton forms new economic development, tourism committees
MILTON City officials are forming two new committees they say will streamline work associated with such projects as hotel studies, tourism campaigns and city land deals.
City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said the city will have both an economic development commission and a tourism committee up and running by January.
The Milton City Council earlier this month approved both committees. Next month, the city plans to appoint a blend of council members and local business stakeholders to them.
Schuetz said the two groups will funnel economic development and tourism duties now handled by policymakers on several city committees and subgroups of the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.
Schuetz said the committees would eliminate an existing process that requires running an economic development plan through as many as five city and chamber of commerce committees before it reaches the council for a final decision.
The new committees would roll together delegates from the Milton chamber of commerce and city council members.
The groups would consider tourism plans and economic development projects and make recommendations directly to the council, carving out at least two committee meetings
"It's more of an issue of efficiency," Schuetz said. "We're trying to get everybody on the same page, working on the same playbook."
Both committees would have seven seats, including two city council members appointed by the mayor, two chamber delegates appointed by the chamber's board of directors and three at-large members selected by the city through open application.
In the face of the pending Highway 26 bypass, which will shift traffic patterns and change the face of commerce in Milton, the two committees will have weighty responsibilities, Schuetz said.
The city looks to redefine itself through a slew of economic development plans, including a pedestrian and bike-friendly reboot of its east side downtown and a plan to lure a hotel and other development to the future junction of Highway 59 and Highway 26.
Those plans take time, money and may involve joint approval of the council and chamber, the latter of which is funded partly through city tax increment financing and city grant sources.
Schuetz pointed to the city's recent completion of a hotel feasibility study, which it considered a necessary step in its attempt to recruit a medium-sized development.
"There was about four or five city and chamber meetings that went into that particular process by which a lot staff time and chamber executive director time was involved in getting to the end result, which was to get a feasibility study," Schuetz said.
He said with the two committees, plans like the hotel study could move quicker, and it would allow more transparency and direct communication between the city, the chamber and residents.
The city in its budget plans will still fund the chamber as it had last year, with $11,000 set aside for economic development and $6,500 for tourism work, officials said.
Schuetz said the chamber still can function autonomously, but having its own delegates plugged into the committees will allow both the city and chamber to work more efficiently.
He said the committees will have the power to recommend to the council consent items plans that cost up to $5,000, but more expensive projects, such as land deals, would still require in-depth discussion by the council.
City council members and business stakeholders alike favor of the idea of the committees, according to Schuetz and chamber Director Christina Slaback.
"We're really redefining what our partnership is," Slaback said.
Schuetz and Slaback said the city plans to leave one of the at-large seats open on the tourism committee for a potential delegate from the Janesville Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
"The idea is to do more of a regional approach," Slaback said.