Lemoore City Council snubs long-time Kings County economic partner once again

By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore Mayor Ray Madrigal
Lemoore Mayor Ray Madrigal

Lemoore councilmembers renewed a revised agreement with one economic consultant and continued to keep another longtime Kings County partner at arm’s length at Tuesday’s (Oct. 17) regular council meeting.

Despite a spirited discussion regarding its merits and proposals, councilmembers failed to get a second to a motion by Councilman Dave Brown to rehire the Kings County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to bolster the development of industrial business opportunities in Lemoore.Until about three years ago, the EDC, in one form or another, has been a longtime economic development partner with the City of Lemoore – at least 45 years. The Lemoore City Council dropped the EDC and opted to hire a retail development consulting firm CrisCom in 2014.

Lemoore City Council Oct. 17 Agenda

The CrisCom Company was initially hired to improve Lemoore’s local prospects but has largely failed. Instead, the city retained the company for its consulting and lobbying efforts. In 2015, CrisCom succeeded in obtaining a state grant of $939,000 for the development of Lemoore-based county-wide dispatch system.

Lemoore City Council snubs long-time Kings County economic partner once again

“A couple of things CrisCom can do that city staff can’t do is they have all the connections with the assemblymen, the senators,” said Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson. “They’ve worked closely with Chief (Darrell) Smith in the past in getting some (bills passed), and they actually brought $939,000 to the City of Lemoore for dispatch. They’ve developed a really good rapport in Kings County and other agencies surrounding us that our staff doesn’t have.”

While CrisCom may have succeeded in the halls of the State Capitol, it has struggled with its retail development efforts.

Longtime resident Connie Wlaschin criticized CrisCom’s retail efforts. “I have a concern about these consulting services. “They’ve had a contract for three or four years but other than the dispatch center what have they done for Lemoore?” she asked. “Since the city has expanded their staff why can’t our extra staff do what CrisCom has been doing – or not doing. I just think that this is a waste of money.”

CrisCom’s Chuck Jelloian admitted that finding retail opportunities for Lemoore has been difficult despite talking to hundreds of retail prospects. “Our contract is really month to month,” he said. “We’re able to be fired in 30 days, and CrisCom can also leave in 30 days.”

The monthly fee for lobbying, grant services, and outreach is $3,750 per month. Councilmembers approved the contract 5-0.

Despite a reduction in its annual fee, councilmembers decided not to renew the city’s long-standing 45-year relationship with the EDC. Before a previous council’s decision to terminate the agreement about three years ago, Lemoore paid the EDC $37,500 a year for a variety of services including industrial and business retention.

Despite a motion from Councilman Dave Brown, he failed to get a second and the proposal was dropped.

The EDC brings with it hundreds of contacts and networks of firms seeking development opportunities. The EDC also serves as the point of contact for business location needs.

Kings EDC Chief Executive John Lehn told councilmembers that the EDC wants Lemoore to return to the fold and was offering them a discounted $20,000 fee.

Councilmember Holly Blair was skeptical. “I would just like to know what your plans are and how you’re going to be different from year’s past when we’ve given a lot of money and not seen a lot of return for the investment we’ve placed in your hands?”

Lehn countered that hiring the EDC was “a long-term investment” for Lemoore. The EDC promotes Kings County specifically at the state and national events and is constantly seeking new business opportunities. “We’re all over the United States. We meet with real estate brokers, site selectors and push the Central Valley.”

He said that the EDC’s would continue to market Lemoore as a site for industrial and business development.

“What approach are we going to take with economic development?” asked Mayor Ray Madrigal. “Two and a half years ago when Mr. Jelloian came on board with us, we didn’t renew their contract (EDC). What message are we sending to developers? We’ve had a lot of things going on that we found out today, and the EDC can provide some help with that.

“It’s a relatively small investment (to get) some expertise, staffing, some contacts. We need to have a comprehensive approach to what we want to do. The retail thing we’re hearing is just not happening,” said Madrigal.  “Mr. Jelloian talked about how difficult it is. Our experience has been very difficult. We need to look at different things, and I think that $1,666 dollars a month for a year is a really good opportunity to see what we can do.”

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