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|OEDC transition moves forward|
Ouachita Economic Development Corp. is one step closer to disbanding and joining a new regional economic development agency after OEDC's governing board established a transition committee to expedite moving OEDC's assets to the new group.
That was the word at an OEDC board of directors meeting, which was held this morning (Thursday) at the West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce's offices.
Transition committee chairperson Linda Holyfield told OEDC's board the committee has been working closely to facilitate the transfer of some $185,000 and all other OEDC assets to the yet-to-be-named regional economic development agency. The new economic development endeavor will eventually serve as the marketing entity for a four parish region comprised of Jackson, Lincoln, Morehouse and Ouachita parishes.
"Our dream would be that we could increase the speed of this transition and make this happen," Holyfield said.
Though no timeframe has been established for the final transfer of OEDC's non-profit corporation status to the new group, Holyfield said she believed the new group could be up and running quickly.
"After discussions with Stacey Goff and Todd Perry, prominent Ouachita business leaders who helped spearhead the formation of the interim board, it is my opinion that the new regional organization could be up and running with a chief executive and minimal staff by the end of 2008," Holyfield said.
According to Holyfield, OEDC could be instrumental in solving one of the biggest issues facing the new group. That would entail staffing it.
"If the group wants to use Pat (Regan) and Liz (Pierre), we've made them available," Holyfield said.
Regan currently serves as OEDC's interim president; Pierre serves as OEDC's legal counsel.
The regional economic development alliance is led by Todd Perry, West Monroe; James Moore, Monroe; James Davison, Ruston; former Senate President Randy Ewing, Quitman; Elton Kennedy, Mer Rouge; and CenturyTel CEO Glen Post.
So far, the group has contracted two consulting firms to recruit a chief executive to run the new regional organization. The group also is working to raise some $850,000 to operate the new organization.
As previously reported in The Ouachita Citizen, the group led by Perry and company has secured more than $240,000 in funding from various private donors, including OEDC's $185,000 contribution.
Not included in the contribution from OEDC is some $3.5 million held by OEDC Land Corp., a non-profit, sister corporation of OEDC. The land corporation acquired the $3.5 million from the sale of the old State Farm Insurance site off Interstate 20 in Monroe. State Farm donated the site to OEDC for economic development purposes. The donation occurred not long after the insurance conglomerate closed its regional offices here in 2005. The land corporation sold the State Farm site to the state in 2006.
OEDC Land Corp. President Ben Peters said the land corporation is currently working to determine the steps it must take to make the transition from a subsidiary corporation to an independent foundation.
Eventually, OEDC Land Corp. will become an economic development foundation supporting projects that directly benefit Ouachita Parish, Peters has said.
In other business, OEDC finances appear to be in good order.
OEDC received a clean bill of health financially from Martin, Harrison and Smallwood, an accounting firm contracted to provide annual, independent audits of OEDC's finances.
Regan informed the OEDC board that auditors issued an unqualified opinion with no findings, meaning OEDC was in full compliance with all applicable financial accounting standards.
OEDC is required to complete annual audits as part of its compliance with state and federal accountability standards because the organization receives and spends taxpayer dollars.