FCEDC considers moving office downtown

4/25/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

The Finney County Economic Development Corp. on Wednesday listened to, but took no action, on a proposal to move its offices into a downtown building along with Downtown Vision after the building is renovated over the summer.

Bruce Glass and Beverly Schmitz Glass, executive director of Downtown Vision, are buying the McAllister Building at 118 E. Laurel St. at the southwest corner of Laurel and Seventh streets. They plan to renovate the building with the goal of creating new offices for Downtown Vision, FCEDC, Finney County United Way and the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, the Downtown Vision office is located at 413 N. Main St., while the offices of the FCEDC, United Way and the Chamber are located at the Fulton Terrace plaza on the northwest corner of Fulton and Fleming streets.

Relocating to the McAllister Building would allow for a central, downtown, location for all of these agencies.

Bruce Glass said last September the building's owner, Duane West, asked if the Glasses had any interest in buying and developing the building, which had been mostly empty for a number of years with the exception of Cliff's Barbershop on the corner.

Downtown Vision also needs to find a new location for its offices. Glass said the Finney County Preservation Alliance plans to begin a renovation project sometime this year and informed Downtown Vision it would need to vacate by the end of the year.

He said Downtown Vision, by virtue of its mission, really needs to stay downtown.

"This looked like a good opportunity to help move the organization to a different location," Glass said. "There aren't many spots on Main Street, and frankly, we'd like to keep those spots as retail. Being just off of Main Street on a side street is a good opportunity for offices."

The building would also provide an opportunity to locate several organizations in one place, something that could enhance cooperation and communication.

Glass said the same proposal is being made to the United Way and Chamber of Commerce. There would also be additional office space for a couple of other non-profits as well.

The organizations would split the rent and share the use of a common conference room. FCEDC and Downtown Vision would also share the cost of an office manager.

Glass said he expects to have purchase details with his bank worked out in early May. Assuming he gets rental commitments from the other prospective organizations, it would take around three months to renovate the building, Glass said, and would likely be August before the building would be ready to be occupied.

Essentially, the project would involve gutting most of the building, except for the barbershop, and completely renovating it, he said.

FCEDC board members didn't commit to the proposal on Wednesday, but indicated the idea was attractive and warranted more discussion.

"I think it would be a great use of the space," Catherine McKinley, economic development board member, said. "It's been vacant and sort of a blight downtown. And I do like the idea of everybody being together."

In other business Wednesday, the FCEDC adopted its proposed 2014 budget of $390,160, a decrease of about $40,000 compared to the 2013 budget. Overall, expenses are projected to be $357,500, an increase of about $37,000 in 2014.

Board chairman Tom Walker said the FCEDC is trying to cover the bare necessities.

"Last year when we did our budget, we had projected by the end of this year our reserve and carryover, which just a few years ago was in the $400,000 range, would be down around $50,000, and in 2014 we would consume that and maybe come up with a deficit," he said.

But due to the thriftiness of staff and operating efficiently with two people instead of three, Walker said FCEDC has been able to turn its projected end of the year carryover to almost $110,000.

"That has helped us a great deal in revenues for the 2014 budget, otherwise we'd probably be looking at cutting some things or asking our partners to participate even more than we are asking now."

The FCEDC will request additional contributions from three of its partners in 2014. Finney County's share would rise from $118,000 to $145,000; Garden City would increase from $94,000 to $105,000; and Holcomb would increase from $11,000 to $15,000.

Garden City Community College has already increased its contribution for FCEDC to $15,000 this year, so it's not being asked for an increase in 2014.

Lona DuVall, FCEDC president, explained that economic development is not asking for an increase in taxes, or for its partners to find new money. It is asking the partners to allocate more of the money that is already being collected through the mill levy for economic development.

DuVall said a certain portion of funds are allocated to FCEDC from the total collected from the mill levy each year. FCEDC is asking partners to release additional funds over what has been released in the past for operating purposes.

The FCEDC will take its proposed budget to the Finney County Commission on May 6, the Garden City Commission on May 7, and the Holcomb City Council on May 8.

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