After seven or eight years of rapid commercial growth, the city of Derby has decided to lower the profile of its economic development effort.
The Derby City Council on Tuesday merged its Economic Development Advisory Board with its Ordinance Review Advisory Board, and changed and lowered the salary range of the vacant economic development director position to become development manager.
The move is coming now because of the departure last week of Alison Moeding as Derby’s economic development director.
The departure prompted a re-evaluation of the job, said City Manager Kathy Sexton.
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The city of Derby is mainly residential but has experienced a terrific burst of commercial development since 2006 as its population crossed 20,000 and a number of national retailers opened their doors, along with more national and local restaurants. But, Sexton said, the city generally doesn’t give incentives to residential or commercial developers. Incentives are typically reserved for large office facilities, tourist attractions and manufacturing plants, she said.
Sexton said the move might not have happened eight years ago when Derby residents routinely complained about having to drive to Wichita for most shopping and dining. But that has changed as Derby has become the county’s third major commercial hub, after east and west Wichita.
Having someone on staff who could arrange deals to lure big companies to town just didn’t make sense anymore, Sexton said. Commercial development typically occurs when the nearby population reaches a certain size and average income.
“We want to attract businesses more because we are a good community than because we are offering incentives,” she said. “It’s not like some big companies didn’t ask, but we didn’t give them any and they came anyway.”
The development manager’s position will no longer report to the city manager, but to the city engineer. The development manager, Sexton said, will work closely with the city’s planning and engineering staff to assist the city’s new and existing businesses grow, help carry out the city’s economic development plan and be a public advocate for local businesses.
The city does have a number of smaller manufacturers, and Sexton said Derby will continue to assist them.
Many of the former economic development director’s marketing and regional economic development duties have already been divvied up among other senior staff.
That salary range, formerly $52,160 to $78,239, will drop to between $45,384 and $61,383.
The proposal got a lot of support from the council.
“Over the last five or six years we’ve done some really good things, some complicated things, with incentives,” council member Randy White said on Tuesday. “But without a war chest … I think this is a good move for us. We’ve got to remember that we’re 22,000 to 23,000 (residents), and we have to find what fits us.”