Despite lack of economic development, panel still plans to offer input

By EVAN YOUNG

Members of the Crestwood Economic Development Commission admit there hasn’t been much economic development to talk about lately, but say they still want to continue providing input as needed to the city.

The EDC met last week to discuss, among other things, its scope as one of Crestwood’s citizen advisory boards to the mayor, board of aldermen and city staff. Commissioners Keith Conboy and Pat Lanane were absent. It was the group’s first regular meeting since Aug. 19, 2008; monthly meetings scheduled since then have been canceled. A meeting scheduled for June 16 also was canceled for lack of a quorum.

Per ordinance, the EDC is required to meet at least quarterly to develop and implement “strategies in order to achieve the city’s economic goals.”

But commissioners said last week that while the EDC has set in motion several of those strategies since its formation in 2004, they haven’t had much to discuss since the commission last met.

“I think the reduced scope of the committee is really more of a result of the economic backdrop that we’ve experienced in the last year or so … ” commissioner Dave Wall said. “We’ve had some really good dialogue. Some very good ideas have come out of this committee. I think back to when we had (former Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood) in here and he helped us with (the Missouri Department of Transportation) in making the cut-through on Watson Road, and I’d actually like to see some more of those where we get the divider broken down to allow access to more businesses. We’ve generated the idea of streamlining the business license process, and I think that was instituted and still goes on today.

“Going forward I would like continue to see more forward thinking, more creative ideas come out of this commission, but I think right now there’s just such a lack of economic development in our city that I think that’s why we’ve had this kind of slowdown on the number of meetings as well as some ideas coming out of those.”

Commissioner Daniel Tennessen suggested the EDC encourage Crestwood to conduct a SWOT analysis to assess — as outlined in the acronym — its economic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Regarding the EDC’s meeting frequency, commissioners seemed to agree they would hold meetings only as needed or as requested by aldermen or city staff.

“I don’t like to meet if we don’t need to meet. I’m not one of these people that say ‘We have to have a meeting every month,’ and then we sit here and talk about nothing … I appreciate the fact that we don’t have meetings if there’s nothing germane to discuss,” commissioner Sonny Brockman said.

Commissioner Scott Evers added later, “I think the commission is important. I think it needs to continue. I agree — I don’t need to meet every month. I know I don’t have time for that, but it needs to go forward.”

EDC Chairman Forrest Miller said he considers the monthly meetings of the Crestwood-Sunset Hills Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee to be “part of our meeting.”

“I really think we have a lot to offer the city of Crestwood,” Miller said of the Crestwood EDC. “We’re all retailers, and you can ask us questions and we can tell you what the real world is like out there in the retail industry in south county, southwest county area. Some of us have had more success, and that may be because of our industry but for the most part there definitely is knowledge here.”

Earlier, commissioners received an update on both the “Discover Crestwood” program and the city’s participation in the 2009 sales-tax holiday, which took place from Aug. 7 to Aug. 9.

Designed as a business revitalization program, “Discover Crestwood” is being established to boost local interest in the Crestwood business community. Participating businesses are asked to offer shoppers a discount, which can be obtained by presenting a “savings pass” available on the city’s Web site and in the city’s bimonthly newsletter.

Owners also can opt to have their business included, free of charge, in an online directory on the Crestwood Web site.

Nikki Koehnemann, assistant to the city administrator and the EDC’s city staff representative, said so far 70 businesses are interested in the discount program.

As for the tax holiday, which exempted school supplies, clothing, computers and software purchases from local, county and state sales taxes, Koehnemann said both Best Buy and Computer St. Louis have reported their earnings that weekend exceeded those of last year’s holiday.

During a regular weekend, Computer St. Louis brings in roughly $7,000 in sales, Koehnemann said. However, the business reported $60,000 in sales during the sales-tax holiday weekend, she said.