City dissolves volunteer committee

Posted 9/4/09

With a sophisticated economic development program already in place and an estimated three-quarters of a million dollars spent annually on business …

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City dissolves volunteer committee


With a sophisticated economic development program already in place and an estimated three-quarters of a million dollars spent annually on business retention and growth, there’s very little need for the all-citizen volunteer Business Industry Affairs Advisory Committee.

That was the reason Littleton City Council gave when they opted, in a 6-1 vote, to dissolve the 22-year-old committee with a possibility of re-examining a citizen group in the distant future.

“When we ask citizens to give up their time, we better make sure that we have a very clear direction and that we use their time and talents most effectively,” said Councilmember Debbie Brinkman, who served as the BIAAC liaison.

“I don’t believe that’s happening with BIAAC right now. They’re not doing anything at this point to support the economic gardening program, and that is in fact, Littleton’s driving economic resource.”

But eliminating the citizen committee gives the impression that the city is closed to business, said BIAAC committee members in a letter to city council.

“There’s already a perception in the metro area — no matter how erroneous — that Littleton is closed to business,” they said.

BIAAC members believe it’s important for every municipality to have a group of citizens interested in the business community to offer outside perspective and input.

“Citizens are out pounding the streets. The see issues in a different light. They can offer input and be the go-to people that staff can call and check in with,” said BIAAC member Kay Watson.

At the Sept. 1 council meeting, Watson produced a list of neighboring municipalities that have some form of a citizen business advisory committee. Arvada, Aurora, Castle Rock, Denver, Englewood, Westminster and Parker were all mentioned.

Originally, BIAAC was designed to monitor public issues that impact economic development and suggest a course of action for the city by visiting with various business owners and sectors and reporting back to the Business Industry Affairs Department.

But as the department has matured and developed other methods of outreach, the committee has played less of a role, according to Director of Business Industry and Affairs Chris Gibbons.

“They haven’t given my department a lot of advice other than what we pick up about the business community by being able to talk to (the committee),” Gibbons said.

“They’ve never made specific recommendations but rather weighed in on policy and budget matters with city council.”

The number of recommendations actually implemented has been low.

“Things have changed since when the (Business Industry Affairs Advisory) committee was first created,” said Mayor Doug Clark at the Sept. 1 meeting, citing the implementation of the city’s economic gardening policy.

“I have a hard time seeing that a readjustment and a look at what the role of BIAAC is, is going to send a message to business community that we don’t care,” Clark said after rattling off a long list of ways he sees the city working to grow the business community.

The city spends a lot of money each year trying to enhance and communicate with the business community, he added.

An estimated $600,000 is budgeted for the city’s economic development department, and South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce receives more than $10,000 annually from Littleton to act as the interface to local businesses.

“Things have changed since the committee was formed,” Watson said. “But with the economy the way it is you don’t want to alienate your businesses or volunteers.”


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