Additional details about the PUMA, Progressive Urban Management Associates, economic assessment for Prowers County were discussed during the monthly Prowers County Development Incorporated board meeting, December 15th. Last month the board decided to fund one half of the $50,000 project with $25,000, proceeds derived from the recent sale of the East Washington Street incentive properties. Monday evening, Ron Cook, Prowers County Commissioner, also presented an overview of what the PUMA study would provide to the Lamar City Council and tested the waters for some form of financial support from the City of Lamar.
Cook told the PCDI board he will meet with the council following the holidays to lay out more details. “Possibly through this strategy plan, we could bring some working relationship back between the city and the county,” he stated. Commissioner Buxton-Andrade said PUMA will lay out some specific steps that will need to be followed, “They give you strategy plans all the way through and you’re building a champion to follow through. They expect you to follow them and each step builds on the next step. They tell you things about the community, perhaps changing something, it could be bringing people together, or that we may not have the right mix of people at the table and they will tell us that,” she explained.
The PUMA action plan lays out three phases of local analysis and several steps which will stretch out over seven months into 2016. Phase 1 is an economic assessment including site visits and input from major economic stakeholders which will result in an economic assessment overview for Prowers County. Phase 2 consists of an economic development action plan with priorities based upon economic impact and financial strategies as well as public and private partnerships. This phase will help identify some ‘quick wins’ which can be implemented in the community. The third and final phase will identify partnerships and funding strategies outlines. At the end of the process, sometime next August, PUMA intends to provide PCDI with needed tools to implement the Economic Development Strategic Plan and foster economic growth in the county.
In response to a question about involving the same community leaders to head the project, Commissioner Cook said, “We hope with this new direction, we’re going to attract new attention to our group. I think this will sell a lot of other people in our community to come forward.” Commissioner Andrade added, “When they (PUMA) do their initial interviews, they’ll reach out to players in the community that they have spoken with, bankers or business owners. They initiate contact with other people who could contribute their ideas. They did that before with the Healthy Places program.”
Rick Robbins, PCDI President, added to that concept, “This study will help connect the dots from the past efforts of other groups which are trying to do the same thing in a different way. PUMA could tie all those parties into one voice. We’ve discussed this and we think it would be healthy for PCDI to have a different make up on how it’s put together. Maybe the county, city or college would be assigning someone to the board. Perhaps the county could elect or place people to the PCDI board,” he stated.
Cook also stated that PCDI is still considering hiring an executive director, but that decision won’t be made until the end of the PUMA study. “When it finishes in August, the county and city will be considering its next budget. We should have a new mission statement and a specific direction for an executive director to take when we get to that point.”
By Russ Baldwin
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