|Now that a new Mayor has been elected for the City of Galesburg, a point of concern has been the way the City accounts for the number of jobs it helps create or retain.
The report the City develops, known as the "Projects Assisted Report," keeps track of the investments the City of Galesburg makes in local business. Items such as TIF funds and grants are all accounted for in the report - as well as the amount of funding awarded to the companies.
In an insert in the Register-Mail on March 31st, Mayor Sal Garza affirmed his support for the report - which claims to have created or retained over 1,100 jobs over several years. His challenger at the time, and now Mayor-elect John Pritchard, criticized the report as an inaccurate measure of the success of City job creation measures.
Director of Economic Development for the City Cesar Suarez has 23 years of economic development experience. He tells WGIL it's much easier to count created jobs.
"When you try to count retained jobs, there's no universal definition of what a retained job is in the sense that it's a result of the program," says Suarez. "One broad definition of retained jobs is the jobs that existed prior to providing the technical assistance, or grant, or loan that's existing within the company."
The Economic Development Department in the City separates retained jobs and saved jobs. A saved job is defined by the City as a direct job, or full-time equivalent, that remains in the community as the result of an incentive. Mayor-elect John Pritchard tells WGIL that the method currently being used was not permitted when he was involved in economic development.
"My attitude at this point is that I would like the opportunity to sit down with the Economic Development folks and review the list, and go over it with them to get a more complete understanding, and compare it to the information I have received from the companies that are on the list," says Pritchard.
Sources suggest that some of the City investments would have allegedly reduced profitability if funds had been received, but paid out in the form of prevailing wages.
The City uses what Suarez describes as the industry standard in economic development and which is used by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). Suarez admits that he uses his best judgement in reporting retained jobs, and often leaves them out of the report because it doesn't meet his satisfaction.
In calendar year 2012, the City claims to have created or retained 575 jobs. Among those jobs is Gates Corporation - which reportedly received a $3-million dollar investment from the City and created 116 jobs. Suarez tells WGIL that the City Council approved an employee training program for $50,000 as part of that investment and trained the 116 people with those funds.
"They also had existing about 87 jobs that were already there, the point is that whenever there is any investment in a company, and if you've assisted them, one can say that as a result of that there is someway that activity did have some part in retaining the jobs that existed," says Suarez.
Whether or not to keep retained jobs as a category in Galesburg City Economic Development will reportedly come under question after Pritchard is sworn-in as Mayor on May 6th. Pritchard tells WGIL that if the City keeps the retained jobs category, the City could potentially give every business a few dollars and claim that it hypothetically retained 10-thousand jobs.
"I think it would be best to not focus on [retained jobs], and I think - in terms of measuring the success of an economic development program - what people are expecting, I think, are new jobs," says Pritchard. "Did you bring a company to town? Did you help a company expand?"
The City audits the "Projects Assisted Report" at the end of the year - which seeks to qualify all of the jobs created, saved, or retained with the investments made by the City. Suarez says that he will continue to use the standard definitions and methods currently used in the Economic Development field until he is instructed otherwise, but says that he wouldn't necessarily have a problem simply not counting retained jobs.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mayor-Elect John Pritchard owns WGIL, three other radio stations in Galesburg, and six radio stations in Burlington, Iowa.