Thursday, April 27, 2006

Chamco board says it’s not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now

Last week the executive committee for Chamco – the city’s partner in industrial development – said it wanted to pass on soliciting commercial development for the City of Oshkosh. This morning, its board of directors basically said the same thing.

The consensus among board members is that Chamco is too busy with other projects right now and doesn’t have the appropriate time, or manpower, to take on commercial development, despite councilman Paul Esslinger’s continued push for Chamco to lead the charge in this area.

People have complained for years, including the hosts – both past and present of Eye on Oshkosh – that there has not been nearly enough done by the Oshkosh Commercial Development Corporation (OCDC), now known as the Oshkosh Area Economic Development Corp. (OAEDC). And it was Esslinger who sponsored a resolution on last Tuesday evening’s council meeting agenda for Chamco to be considered for that role. His resolution failed on a vote of 1-6, with other councilors suggesting a future workshop to hear from representatives from OAEDC on what they’re doing from a commercial development standpoint and what they might be capable of.

Certainly Chamco has done a marvelous job from an industrial standpoint and should get all of our praise, but if they are not in a position right now to take on new responsibilities, Oshkosh must have a back-up plan in place. That’s why a workshop makes sense, but it can’t stop there. We have had enough of past councils and individual council members talking about things, but no follow-through being done from where citizens sit. After the workshop, or perhaps as a part of it, the council needs to decide specifically what they want a commercial-seeking entity to accomplish – whether it be OAEDC, Chamco, or some other entity altogether – set forth some reasonable and attainable goals, and then subsequently put out a Request for Proposals. And when an organization is decided on, the council must insist on and require accountability.

As they approach these tasks, council members might want to talk to Future Neenah, Inc. This organization has been instrumental in not only helping keep business in Neenah, but bringing in new business and promoting the downtown at the same time. Many lessons could be learned from them. They have a proven track record and have helped put downtown Neenah and commercial Neenah on the map. That is what we need in Oshkosh – once and for all.
- Cheryl Hentz

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Chamco board says it’s not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now
Authored by: admin on Thursday, April 27 2006 @ 08:15 PM MDT
[NOTE: Administration has moved this comment to this section so the discussion can be continued in an area that is less "busy" and that is focused solely on this issue.]

Authored by: oshwi324 on Thursday, April 27 2006 @ 08:06 PM MDT Does the city's (OK, Esslinger's) resolution to recommend CHAMCO reek of the same "waive the bid" issues that plagued the city with the amphitheater bathrooms? If we're interested in choosing an agency to promote the retail and commercial growth within the city, shouldn't we do it more along the lines of an RFP than just asking a specific agency to do it? I don't know on this one...that's why I am asking your opinions. At first blush, tho, this seems odd that the city would just ask an agency to do it without giving others a fair kick at the cat. Opinions?

Chamco board says it's not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now
Authored by: admin on Friday, April 28 2006 @ 07:23 AM MDT
Oshwi324, I had not thought about this aspect with regard to Esslinger's proposal, but you raise a very interesting and, I think, valid point. The argument could be made that Chamco has a proven track record of working with the city and might be the only agency of its type around capable of handling this kind of task (commercial and retail development). Yet that same argument could have been, and if I recall correctly even WAS used as to why C.R. Meyer should be given the thumbs up on doing the the bathroom project when it was (e.g., they're already doing part of the amphitheater project; they know the terrain and the contamination problems; they've got a good reputation; they've done a lot for the city; etc.)But it is true that unless you get bids from people you don't know what, or who, you might find. And it sounds like the city is going to have to do that anyway since both Chamco's executive committee and board of directors as a whole have passed on Esslinger's concept, at least for the immediate future. Good call!
- Cheryl

Chamco board says it's not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now
Authored by: Beavis on Friday, April 28 2006 @ 11:37 AM MDT
Ultimately, it may be best to have an RFP for this service. But as a point of fact, legally, the city is not required to have RFP for this service because it is a specialization in our purchasing process. If you have any further questions regarding this issue, the City Attorney can answer your questions. His number is 236-5115
-Paul Esslinger

Chamco board says it's not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now
Authored by: mjs on Friday, April 28 2006 @ 02:07 PM MDT
Although I am disappointed at the initial stance taken by the CHAMCO board, I remain optimistic that we are now apparently getting traction on the horrible commercial development issue in Oshkosh.Many good points were made by Ms. Blochel, Mr. Peck and Mr. Pearson at the last council meeting. Mr. Peck again commented on the tired old excuse we all are fed that Oshkosh resides between Fond du Lac and Appleton, therefore large retailers will not locate here. That excuse is simply irrelevant. Mr. Peck and I agree we can and must do better!If large retailers can construct multiple stores in Appleton and the greater Appleton area, it just doesn’t wash that the distance factor is the issue. I firmly believe there are issues…but we are not hearing the truth as to exactly what they are. Let’s hope the council schedules a workshop and trouble shoots this problem in the very near future. The end result of that workshop should be to take the next step and construct a RFP and get it out there, in the hands of professionals who know what’s needed to attract retail. I have been a life long resident in Oshkosh, and it frustrates me to see our city looked upon as a second class city, because we are unable to attract and maintain a reasonable retail offering for a city of 65,000+ residents.Back in the 70’s, Oshkosh was presented with the opportunity to have a regional mall located at the intersection on highways 21 & 41. That opportunity was turned down, largely due to political pressure brought on by a large employer. That same opportunity was offered to Appleton and now the Town of Grand Chute has the Fox River Mall. The mall and all the retail and tax base growth that went with it should have been in Oshkosh. Let’s not let retail opportunities slip though our fingers again!

Chamco board says it's not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now
Authored by: admin on Friday, April 28 2006 @ 03:40 PM MDT
The city may not be required to put out an RFP for this service, but there certainly is no reason it can't anyway, nor shouldn't. To say "we don't have to" is not a very responsible answer - despite the outstanding job Chamco has done for our local industry. I'm not really sure what it means to say "it is a specialization in our purchasing process." Does that mean not that many agencies do this kind of work so we don't have to solicit bids? Or does it mean something else? Either way, Mr. Esslinger has argued against bid-waiving in the past and I would think, required or not, he would have been first in line to suggest RFPs, especially when Chamco's executive committee originally said it was not interested and now that has been reiterated by its board of directors.
- Cheryl

Chamco board says it's not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now
Authored by: chzhead on Friday, April 28 2006 @ 09:05 PM MDT
Cheryl, What needs to be understood here is that the city is not asking Chamco to take over the commercial development. The city is asking for them to prepare a proposal on how they would do it and what it would cost. Also as for the 'bid waiving', it has nothing to do with bids. The city is simply asking them to expand on the duties that they are currently performing. They are doing a job for the city that is directly related to the area that is being offered.

Chamco board says it's not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now
Authored by: mjs on Sunday, April 30 2006 @ 08:41 AM MDT
More positive news in the Sunday edition of the Northwestern. At an editorial board meeting held Friday, Doug Pearson again drove home the need to change the way Oshkosh is handling commercial development, recruitment and retention.It appears that Doug has the support of the CHAMCO Board Chairman, Jack Schloesser. Mr. Schloesser is an extremely successful businessman. Mr. Schloesser is President and CEO of OEC Graphics. OEC Graphics has a long rich history in Oshkosh (OEC=Oshkosh Engraving Company) and through the years has experienced extraordinary growth. OEC provides high quality jobs to hundreds of men and women at their multi-plant locations.Given the proper resources and support, CHAMCO's involvement in Oshkosh commercial development guided at a strategic level by Jack Schloesser and at a tactical level by Doug Pearson will be a force to be reckoned with...success will be achieved. Lets make this happen!

Chamco board says it's not interested in taking on commercial development, at least not now
Authored by: admin on Tuesday, May 02 2006 @ 10:41 PM MDT
Chzhead, I appreciate your comments, however, am a little confused by them at the same time. On the one hand you say the city is not asking CHAMCO to take over commercial development. But elsewhere in your comment you say the city is asking them to expand on the duties they’re currently performing. It doesn’t matter how it’s worded: the end result would be CHAMCO taking over commercial and retail development in the city. More specifically, the very first part of Mr. Esslinger’s resolution alone seemed to indicate CHAMCO taking over in these areas. It read: “Be it resolved by the Common Council of the City of Oshkosh that the proper city officials are authorized and directed as follows: 1. To request that the CHAMCO, Inc., Board of Directors reviews the Council’s request to become the economic development agent of the City of Oshkosh for all forms of commercial development and retention; including but not limited to retail and professional office businesses.”

That part of the resolution is worded in such a way that most people would naturally take that to mean that Mr. Esslinger (since he sponsored this resolution) and the rest of the council (had they approved it) were asking CHAMCO to do exactly that: lead the charge in retail and commercial development. The fact that the words “become the economic development agent for…” are part of that resolution suggest that taking over such development is exactly what was intended and that they are NOT doing it now, though they are performing a like service, albeit in a different vein.

Granted, item number 2 in the resolution asked CHAMCO, if they were interested, to submit a proposal “regarding a list of services to be provided, and the staffing and funding needs, if any, that will be required of the City.” But if Mr. Esslinger’s intent was to solicit the same information from other agencies and/or organizations, it seems he would have had his resolution drafted in such a way that the city would have put out a Request for Proposals. But the resolution spoke only about CHAMCO and, in fact, Esslinger’s own words on this web site stated that the city is not required to use RFPs in this case. I don’t believe Mr. Esslinger was ever desirous of anyone else performing this service for the city. Nor do I believe the citizens who have spoken at city council meetings, on blog sites, or in letters to the editor of late believed that anyone other than CHAMCO was being considered for this position.

As to whether bids are required for this or not is not the real issue in my mind. I know someone else asked if this could be considered a type of illegal bid-waiving and I suggested it seemed plausible. But again, as far as I am concerned, while CHAMCO has done an outstanding job in industrial development and could probably be equally as successful with new challenges, it is unclear as to whether the organization wants to take on the additional challenges, or is even in a position to do so. The sentiment seems to change almost weekly, depending in large part on who at CHAMCO is being quoted. I have also been very outspoken about the former OCDC not being very productive or proactive in the areas of retail, commercial and economic development – a position I still maintain. But I do think the city should get proposals from several organizations and see where we can get the most bang for our buck. Perhaps a consortium of different organizations will be formed. Or maybe it will be one single entity doing the job. Maybe there will be a pool of ideas coming from several resources. We don’t know just yet exactly what the city expects from a development agency and we won’t know who is best suited for that unless we brainstorm how best to do this and/or ask the question of different organizations. Maybe the answer will be CHAMCO; maybe it will be someone else – only time will tell. But we can't afford to waste much more time. On that I think we can all agree.
- Cheryl