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Kokomo Mayor Candidates Disagree On Economic Development

The two candidates for Kokomo mayor differ slightly on a city councilman’s suggestion to reduce funding for The Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.

A corner of Kokomo

Photo: Dan Goldblatt/WFIU

Kokomo's mayoral candidates have differing views of how the city should spend its economic development dollars.

During a council caucus meeting, 2nd District Councilman Bob Cameron suggested the city should just back funding to the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, or GKEDA, which seemed to have a $1.5 million surplus during its last audit.

The particulars of the budget for GKEDA, an organization that develops long-term economic strategy and recruits potential investors to Kokomo and Howard County, are in dispute.

GKEDA President and CEO Jeb Conrad said what appears to be a surplus is actually money already allocated to more than 75 projects, adding that since the Alliance is a not-for-profit organization, it is not allowed to maintain a surplus.

Republican mayoral candidate Scott Kern said it was his understanding that city funds awarded to GKEDA after its founding in 2009 were to be seen as seed money to get the organization started. Kern said he would like to see greater scrutiny of how the city spends its economic development money in general.

“If you’re sitting on $1.5 million, and you’re able to go ahead and fund some of the projects that you have funded throughout the last couple years,” Kern says, “you’ve got the capabilities now of standing on your own.”

Future Funding

Kern says if elected, he would likely favor funneling some funding to GKEDA, but might also advocate cutbacks in the city’s own development department, which has similar aims.

Mayor Greg Goodnight, who sits on GKEDA’s board of directors, said the organization needs economic support.

“My personal opinion is this is tough economic times, and I think that the work the Alliance is doing is working,” Goodnight said.

A proposal before the Howard County Commissioners would shift about $45,000 of the burden of paying for GKEDA to the county in the coming year, lowering the city’s contribution to about $255,000. Overall, the organization is slated to receive about $760,000 in economic development income tax revenue for 2011 and 2012.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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