The Oswego Economic Development Corp., a longtime staple of the village's efforts to lure new businesses to town, will suspend operations May 31.
The OEDC board voted 11-1 at a Thursday special meeting to suspend operations May 31 due to a lack of funding. According to a Friday afternoon news release from OEDC Chairman Mike Schoppe, the group's four employees, including Director Michael Cassa, will be laid off effective that day.
The Village Board voted April 19 to suspend its $85,000 annual commitment to the OEDC in order to study bringing economic development efforts under the auspices of the village. The board then voted May 3 to pay the OEDC what trustees believed the village owed the OEDC for its 2011 commitment through the end of May—$35,000.
However, it was later discovered by village staff that the village had paid its OEDC commitment through April 30 of this year in May 2010. Interim Village Administrator Dwight Baird said Friday afternoon that he then decided, with the consent of Village President Brian LeClercq, to pay the OEDC the money owed to it for May. That came to $7,083.33, Baird said.
Schoppe said the ODEC has not been dissolved nor has the Oswego Visitor's Bureau, which is funded through local hotel/motel tax revenue paid through the village.
What this news means for the short-term future of economic development is a matter of debate. The Village Board has yet to determine what should be done in terms of economic development, and hiring a full-time economic development employee could take months, according to a report submitted by Baird to the Village Board May 3.
"If we're not able to provide economic development services to the village beyond May 31, I think it will hurt the village's continued economic development efforts," Schoppe said.
LeClercq said he has faith village staff won't allow economic development opportunities fall through the cracks in the interim.
"This village is and always will be open for business," he said. "If anyone comes along with a good business idea, we'll be happy to entertain it."
LeClercq said the OEDC has provided years of good service to the community, but the current Village Board majority wants to try a new approach.
"I think everyone wants what's best for the village," he said. "This is the path that this board has chosen. I'll be real interested to see what comes next."