On Monday, December 14, Milford City Council approved the creation of an Economic Development and Community Engagement Administrator. This is a position created to address Council’s desire to create a stronger economic development focus, according to Mark Whitfield, City Manager.
“The City also has a need for emphasis on community engagement, public information and marketing,” Whitfield said. “Because these items are somewhat related, creating one position that would handle both community engagement and economic development seems appropriate. Several cities in Delaware have such positions, including Seaford which has a position exactly like the one proposed here. The annual salary for such a position would be a Grade 12, ranging from $72,260 to $124,238.”
According to documents provided at the meeting, the new position would be responsible for managing the City website, develop a marketing plan for the City, act as a liaison between business and developers as well as promote specific economic development incentive programs that are approved by City Council. The candidate must have a minimum of five years’ experience in marketing, public relations, business, planning, community development, economic development or a related field. A bachelor’s degree or higher in marketing, public relations, business, public administration, planning or related field is also required. Experience requirements and the application are available on the City website.
“We have talked to the Mayor of Seaford and a lot of other cities that are forgetting about the Kent Economic Partnership because they are in the same situation we are,” Mayor Archie Campbell said. “From an economic development standpoint, I would say seven out of ten mayors I spoke to said this type of position is the way to go.”Funding for the position could be accomplished in several ways, according to Whitfield. Council could fund the position using funds available after suspending the Kent County Economic Partnership, which was $30,000.
“The 2021 budget included a full time ICMA Fellow to begin in January,” Whitfield said. “However, we have discovered a very limited pool of applicants and there were none from the University of Delaware. A few weeks ago, I contacted the City of Lewes about sharing a Fellow again starting in June. Holding off on filling that position would free up an additional $35,000 in the 2021 budget. The present budget also includes about $60,000 for the duplication of a Finance Director for 2020-21. Because this is not a recurring expense, $60,000 would be available for future funding of the position, along with $30,00 from KEP.”
Councilman Jason James strongly supported the position, stating that the best way for the City to raise revenue was to increase the tax base. He explained that the way to do that was to increase shopping, restaurants and other businesses that bring people into the City. Housing was already growing in Milford Councilman James said, so a stronger economic base is necessary. It was his opinion that other cities had missed an opportunity because they did not establish a single department to focus on economic development.
“I am happy Mark has been proactive with this and has not only put a proposal together but found funding for a position to start as soon as possible,” Councilwoman Katrina Wilson said. “The timing is right. Everything is coming together at one time for the City of Milford. We have increased services and now we are seeking a new police department. Our taxes will have to increase to support the growth and the timing is right for a position like this.”
The position was approved by a vote of 7 to 0 as Councilman Andy Fulton was absent from the meeting.