The recent controversy involving the Tallahassee Economic Development Council and the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce made local headlines for a number of days. Here is why this controversy should matter to everyone in Tallahassee.
First, during this dust up, Mayor Andrew Gillum admitted the performance of the Tallahassee Economic Development Council over the last twenty years has been “pitiful.”
That is a strong admission. It basically means the brains behind our economic development initiatives have not done a good job.
Now remember, we just voted for a tax to give the economic development types $90 million of our money over the next 20 years to implement economic development initiatives.
Citizens and business leaders need to ensure that a transparent and responsible process is in place with regard to this tax money.
Second, why was this “pitiful” information about economic development not more widely discussed and reported over the last few years. You would think this issue would be a hot topic at the Chamber retreats?
The citizens of Leon County and our business leaders need to do a better job of providing facts when dealing with our elected officials.
Anecdotal information about a “booming Gaines Street” and the explosion of the “entrepreneur culture” may all be true, but where is the impact in the numbers? What needles are we moving? These are important questions that demand answers.
Finally, the split between the EDC and the Chamber played out in a very public way. And what was on display was a power struggle between personalities and egos. At the end of the day, there were no concrete answers provided as to why this happened and how it was good for our community moving forward.
Say what you will about Cecilia Homison, the former volunteer Chair of the Tallahassee Economic Council (EDC), but the way in which employees of the EDC resigned, strategically followed by board member resignations that were publicly released, is nothing short of a public smackdown usually reserved for nasty political campaigns.
Now, some have told me Ms. Homison was difficult to work with. Others told me her new ideas were threatening the old guard. Regardless of where the truth falls with these varying assessments, what unfolded was not productive and will not encourage people with new ideas and different perspectives to participate in a process where diversity is vital to finding solutions to our economic development puzzle.
Jim Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College, former EDC chairman and current board member said the decision to split was “hurried” and “hastily made.”
Our community deserved a more thoughtful and respectful process.