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The Jefferson City Council approved a four-year renewal of the city's agreement with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce for economic development services during a special session Monday.

The contract came before the council at their last meeting, but the council chose to hold the special work session in order to get more information from the chamber about an ongoing process to create a new, separate economic development entity.

Earlier this year, economic development consulting firm Market Street Services completed the Community and Economic Development Strategy and ultimately recommended economic development for the area be completed by a new entity and the chamber's focus be adjusted.

Since the recommendation was made, two committees have been tasked with examining what the change would look like for both organizations.

On Monday, the council heard a presentation from interim Chamber President Missy Bonnot, Executive Committee Chair Darren Heckman and Jeff Davidson, chair of the economic development transition committee on where the process of creating the new organization is.

The economic development transition committee has chosen a name for the new organization — the Jefferson City Regional Economic Partnership — and has begun setting the organization up as a 501 (c) (6) organization, the same type of organization as the chamber.

A 501 (c) (6) organization is still a nonprofit, but there are a few differences compared to a 501 (c) (3). Personal donations to an organization like the partnership will not be tax deductible, City Attorney Ryan Moehlman said.

That type of status also allows the organization to do lobbying if necessary, which was one consideration for the choice between the two.

Other goals of the ED transition committee include defining the mission and key initiatives of the new organization, outlining budget allocations, finalizing a transition timeline and finding a CEO for the new organization.

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The value in creating a new organization is the amount of focus the partnership, and the chamber will be able to give to their missions which are both currently done by the chamber, Davidson said.

"What is better about this approach is a focused approach on economic development," Davidson said. "While (the Chamber) does a great a job of balancing that, we're not as focused as we can be."

The new structure would bring two things, Davidson said — a focused approach on economic development from the new organization and the ability for the chamber to focus more on serving their member businesses.

At the same time, the chamber transition committee is focusing on how the transition will look for the chamber, including establishing a transition timeline, creating a job description for the chamber's CEO/president — to officially replace retired former president Randy Allen — and establishing the chamber's new mission.

Next steps for the process include continuing the process of officially setting up the new organization and securing funding.

The organization will rely on a combination of private and public funding, including the city and Cole County.

The $185,000 agreement approved by the City Council on Monday is a quarterly-billed contract, Davidson said. At one of those quarterly intervals, when the partnership is ready, the funding can be swapped to the partnership.

That action would need to be approved by the council at that time. Then, a new contract would be brought before the council in 2022 directly with the partnership.

Securing funding from the city will allow the organization to move forward with key processes like seeking a CEO for the organization, Davidson said.

"This is a big step for the EDO, to secure funding from the city for 2021, so we can go to market with this level of funding secured and look for initial investors," Davidson said. "The county is our next stop."

In 2018, the county chose to end their economic development relationship with the chamber, seeking instead a new provider. In March 2020, the Cole County Commission approved an agreement with St. Louis-based Polaris Strategies Group for economic development.

An official agreement with the county to fund the new organization has not yet been obtained, but the commission and Polaris are involved in the process, Davidson said.

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