Politics & Government

County approves $300,000 for Greater Wichita Partnership

The county boosted its support for economic development on Wednesday.

Sedgwick County commissioners voted to give $300,000 to the Greater Wichita Partnership, a coalition that focuses the economic development efforts of local organizations.

“A lot of what we do is cultivate the economic environment so that we can see investment and we can see growth in our economy,” said Jeff Fluhr, co-chair of the Greater Wichita Partnership.

Chairman Jim Howell and commissioners Tim Norton and Dave Unruh voted for the group’s full funding request.

“It’s a good organization for us to move forward and actually try to market our region to attract businesses here,” Unruh said.

But commissioners Richard Ranzau and Karl Peterjohn said they doubted the effectiveness of public support for economic development. They voted for the group to receive $250,000.

“We’ve tried to attract new businesses into the community, but I think a more fertile field, frankly, is helping existing businesses grow and expand,” Peterjohn said.

County commissioners voted last May to terminate a long-term funding agreement with the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, which is part of the Greater Wichita Partnership.

County chief financial officer Chris Chronis said the partnership has a 2016 budget of $1.9 million. Wichita and Sedgwick County contribute $300,000 each, and the rest comes from private funds.

Norton said the county needed to join the city and the private sector to support the group’s efforts.

“We need to be all in on economic development,” Norton said. “It is too critical in the community.”

Ranzau pushed for the commission to adopt a contract that would require more information about how the money is spent and how effective the group’s efforts are.

“We have a say in how the money is spent and we should be able to have some expectations on behalf of the taxpayer,” he said.

Unruh criticized some of the criticisms and doubts that commissioners voiced in the meeting.

“We’re setting ourselves almost up as adversarial to the partnership,” Unruh said.

Howell, in his first meeting as chairman, proved to be the swing vote for full funding for the partnership.

“The $300,000 is really about marketing and messaging,” Howell said. “It’s trying to get our message out of Sedgwick County.”

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar