Council members complain about development agency Communications criticized

$10,000 fee questioned

January 30, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Columbia Council members complained last week they are being treated shabbily by Howard County's Economic Development Authority despite having given the agency $10,000 last year to help attract and retain businesses.

"Communications from the EDA to us have been atrocious," council Vice Chairman David W. Berson told Donora L. Dingman, chairwoman of the authority's board, at the council's meeting Thursday night.

Ms. Dingman had come to the council -- the Columbia Association's elected board -- to report on the authority's progress and ask for money this year.

The CA has set aside $10,000 in its proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, but some council members question whether the money might be spent more wisely elsewhere.

"It seems like Howard County is losing out to neighboring jurisdictions," said Councilwoman Suzanne S. Waller of Town Center.

Members wanted to know what the authority was doing to attract new business to Columbia. The CA gets nearly 16 percent of its revenue from businesses on properties covered by the association's lien.

Richard W. Story, the development authority's executive director, "said we would have a role and would be kept informed" about the agency's efforts, Mr. Berson said. "Neither has happened. We want to be a good friend and supporter but you're making it very difficult to do that."

Ms. Dingman replied that the CA benefited from the authority's marketing efforts, including "trade missions" to New York and Chicago during the last two years. She said it would be difficult for the CA to market Columbia to businesses independent of the county.

"It wouldn't get anyone's attention," she said. "Working together, we can line up a better package."

Ms. Dingman told the council that "over 50 percent of the businesses locating here have located in Columbia" and that the CA was getting a "significant return" on its investment.

"I apologize if you're not getting sufficient information," she said.

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