Survey finds cooperation lacking
Collaboration between city and county governments is a big concern for economic developers in Leavenworth County.
During the Leavenworth County Development Corp.'s board meeting, Jan. 10, Irv Jensen, a hired consultant with Iowa-based Smart Solutions Group, presented survey results that are being used to draft the LCDC's strategic plan, a document that will set specific goals and objectives for the corporation and is up for approval next month.
Jensen said 30 "stakeholders" in the county including LCDC members, business leaders and elected officials responded to the survey.
Of those respondents, Jensen pointed to several areas of agreement both positive and negative.
Asked for Leavenworth County's most marketable aspect, respondents focused mainly on the county's proximity and affordability, he said.
"Seventy percent of all the responses to this question related to proximity as the key asset. We're close to good stuff," he said.
The most oft-mentioned weakness or challenge was a lack of cooperation between individual city and county governments.
Jensen said in his experience working with nearly 260 communities across the Midwest, "Most of the time these surveys get a lot of gray areas : There's not a lot of gray area here."
Responses noted "territorial attitudes" and "old perceptions and feuds" that have led to a lack of unity in drawing businesses to the county.
According to Jensen, a failure to realize that the county's main competition is coming from outside the county rather than within is preventing economic growth.
"Across the board no one thought we compete effectively," he said. "None of the 30 responses did."
He said a recommended strategic plan will suggest specific action steps that can encourage economic development by fostering cooperation.
Jensen said whether or not the recommendations will be followed, however, will ultimately depend on leadership and political decisions.
He added that a collaborative organization like LCDC can act as "a Switzerland of the county" where business and government leaders can take off the "constituency hat and think big picture."
LCDC President Tony Kramer said the priority now is to come together and target three or four top projects that the board can start working on.