Commission chairman supports new county economic development specialist

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

The chairman of the Leavenworth County Commission would like to hire an economic development specialist for the county.

Chairman Mike Smith said the position could be funded with some of the money the county government traditionally has used to fund the Leavenworth County Development Corporation and Port Authority.

"This person would work for everybody in the entire county," Smith said.

While the chairman is supportive of the idea, no action has been taken by the County Commission.

Smith confirmed the creation of such a position was discussed during recent meetings of a county economic development task force.

The task force, which included representation from the LCDC, had its final meeting last week.

LCDC President Josh Hoppes expressed disappointment about the possibility that the county government may hire an economic development person at what he said would be at the expense of the Leavenworth Port Authority and LCDC.

"That's the direction it looks like it's heading," Hoppes said.

He addressed the issue Tuesday during a meeting of the Port Authority's Board of Directors.

The Port Authority is a quasi-governmental agency that focuses on economic development. The Port Authority receives most of its funding from the county government. LCDC is a partner organization that receives funding from the county and the cities of Leavenworth, Lansing and Tonganoxie. LCDC also receives support from area businesses and local organizations.

The Times attempted to contact Hoppes for additional comment Thursday, but a phone message was not immediately returned.

Smith acknowledged members of the task force were not able to come together on some issues.

The County Commission was represented on the task force by Smith and Commissioner Mike Stieben.

Smith said the issue soon will be brought before the entire County Commission. He believes there may be support among the commissioners for the creation of new economic development position.

When interviewed by the Times, Smith focused his comments largely on LCDC. Smith said he is not trying to get rid of the organization.

"I think they're doing a good job for industrial parks, but that is not what Leavenworth County needs now," he said.

Smith said a county economic development person can focus on things such as commercial and retail development and infrastructure for new development.

Smith suggested the county employee could assist local cities with economic development and may even provide help to LCDC.

Smith said he does not want to totally defund LCDC, but the organization may need to make up some funding if county commissioners decide to go in a new direction.

"There's only so much money to go around," he said.

Smith said in an email Thursday that he is not sure how much a new economic development position within the county government would cost.

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