GLASGOW — The Barren County Economic Authority voted Friday morning to take the recommendation of its search committee and hire Ron Bunch with the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce to serve as its interim economic director.
BCEA's economic director's position became available when Dan Iacconi retired at the end of June.
Scott Young, a member of BCEA's board of directors, said there is one thing that can be said about the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.
“They clearly have a model in place that is just tremendously successful,” he said, adding that the organization has had success not just on the state level but also on the federal level. “They are getting ready to be recognized or have been recognized as one of the top economic development producing agencies in the country.”
In addition to hiring the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, the economic authority also took its search committee's recommendation to take advantage of a regional marketing partnership that will cost between $8,000 to $8,500.
“Our search committee thinks that's a no-brainer and we are highly recommending that today,” said Larry Glass, chairman of the search committee.
BCEA also agreed to work with the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce on extended economic development services.
“They are working on what that charge is going to be,” Glass said, adding that Bunch has said those fees will be less than what BCEA has been paying an economic development director on a monthly basis.
The economic authority's search committee met with Bunch on Wednesday. During that meeting, Bunch explained there are roughly more than 9,000 businesses in the Bowling Green-Warren County area but that the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce has narrowed its focus to 100.
“They really focus on those 100 and that's how they assess what they are going to do as an economic development engine,” Glass said.
Based on information shared with the search committee on Wednesday, Glass said there are roughly 2,400 businesses in Barren County and probably 25 to 35 on which the economic authority needs to focus.
The search committee also recommended that Bunch and his team do an assessment of economic development data in Barren County.
“Ron has promised as part of this that he would come in with his two top people and put his hands and eyes on the data and help us assess that and help us develop a plan moving forward,” Glass said.
BCEA also took its search committee's recommendation and hired The Pace Group of Tupelo, Mississippi to aid the committee in its search for a new executive director.
“We have a working relationship with The Pace Group. They are excited about this and they obviously gave us a really good deal. They capped their expenses at $30,000 if we hire them, which is basically a third of what an economic director's salary could be,” Glass said.
BCEA also agreed to invite Richie Sanders with Capital Link Consultants to help with the executive director search.
Ben Quinn, a member of BCEA's search committee, said Capital Link Consultants has agreed to volunteer their services to help with the search.
He pointed out that not only is Capital Link Consultants a business consulting firm, it is also a lobbyist.
“Their networks bring us opportunities that they see with their travels around the state,” Quinn said.
There was some discussion during Friday's meeting regarding competition, especially involving the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.
Don Baker, also a member of BCEA's search committee, asked who prepared the proposed contract, and Glass replied it was the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I support this effort too, but there needs to be some language in there that prevents them from possibly coming in and us paying them to poach our existing industry,” Baker said.
He added that he is not implying that the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce would do such a thing, but pointed out there is a section in the proposed contract that protects BCEA from poaching their employees.
“I don't remember seeing anything that actually protected us,” he said.
Gary Hartell, a member of BCEA's board, said he felt BCEA needed some type of strategy.
“Most jobs are unadvertised. People don't know that. They are not in newspapers. They are in the board meetings being talked about along with potential growth opportunities and things companies are thinking about,” he said. “If you had a strategy to reach out and get in there, you could promote some of that growth.”
Hartell said he wasn't concerned about the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce pulling companies away from Barren County, but said he understood Baker's concern.
Young agreed and also said BCEA needed some type of mechanism to protect itself.
Barren County Judge-Executive Micheal Hale reached out to former judge-executives and invited them to attend the BCEA meeting on Friday.
“One declined because when I brought up Ron Bunch's name he said, 'No, I'm not coming,'” Hale said.
One of the former judge-executives he wanted to invite to the meeting was David Fields, former judge-executive of Butler County.
“They were part of this at one time. They lured a company away from Butler County,” Hale said.
The judge-executive continued he is worried that Bunch isn't interested in marketing Barren County.
“He's really wanting to get our inner workings of our companies. That's the one thing that made him smile,” Hale said, adding that he thought BCEA should err on the side of caution.
Hale also asked what type of statement BCEA would be making by not working with local chambers of commerce and asked if BCEA has looked into them to see what they have to offer.
“We don't need you? Close your doors?” Hale said. “Also as a business person, I don't go out and hire someone if don't know what I'm going to pay them.”
David Peterson, a member of BCEA's board, said the local chambers of commerce don't have the same capabilities that the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce has. He also said BCEA doesn't have the luxury of time on its side and that it needs something done now.
Hale urged the BCEA's board to make a decision, but before doing so he said, “I do not support sending tax money to another county.”
BCEA then voted to hire Bunch with the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, hire The Pace Group, enlist the help of Capital Links Consulting and to participate in the regional marketing consortium.
It also voted to take a recommendation of the search committee for compensation.
BCEA board member Jackie Brown was the only member of the board to vote against hiring Bunch and the other partners.
Brown explained that he voted against the motion because there has been a recommendation made that a new BCEA board be appointed so that it is non-biased and has a new direction.
Because of that recommendation, Brown said he didn't think BCEA should vote beyond what is essential or urgent for fear it might hinder or cause an issue with the new board.