The proposed eight-employee nonprofit being formed to promote economic development is expected to cost between $840,000 and $1.7 million a year for at least five years.
NCDS will determine the exact budget, said Demming Bass, the Chamber’s chief operating officer, who gave a presentation on the EDGE program to the South Cobb Business Association at the Presbyterian Village in Austell on Wednesday.
Bass expects the private sector to fund more than 75 percent of the EDGE’s budget, with federal, state and possibly local dollars making up the rest.
However, those local dollars will not be coming from the Marietta Board of Education or Marietta City Council, who have already announced they will not be making any financial commitments because of budget constraints of their own.
Bass said an EDGE committee, composed of members such as Kennesaw State President Dr. Dan Papp and Chamber Chairman Tony Britton, reviewed more than a dozen submissions from a request for proposals before narrowing it down to three finalists: Coxe Curry, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions and NCDS, who ultimately got the job.
NCDS’s first job is to prepare a study gauging the level of support for the EDGE program by asking potential investors to weigh in on what parts of the plan are most needed. This will involve 60 to 70 interviews with business and community leaders and a process to create benchmarks and other methods of accountability, Bass said.
Once the report is prepared, for which NCDS will be paid $25,000, the EDGE committee and NCDS will proceed with a fundraising campaign.
Bass said it was still being determined how much NCDS would be paid for its fundraising efforts. If $5 million was raised, payment could run around $100,000, he said.
Of the eight employees who will run the nonprofit, four will be on the Chamber’s payroll while the other four will be new hires. Moreover, the nonprofit will likely be housed at the Chamber’s offices, Bass said.
“We hope to have the new 501(c)3 fully operational by the end of the year, but are shooting to begin implementing parts of the strategy as early as July, depending on how long it takes to get the nonprofit officially established and funding begins to come in,” Bass said.
Bass gave the same presentation to the business association that he’s given to others in recent weeks. He told the Journal about the NCDS deal after his talk. Among those who attended the luncheon were three of the candidates vying to unseat Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee: Larry Savage, Mike Boyce and Bill Byrne.
Lee has endorsed the EDGE proposal because he sees it as a way to boost economic development efforts in the county without having to add additional government employees to the county’s budget.
Byrne said he wishes the program success.
However, “until the economy allows — and I think that’s three or four years down the road — I would not support under any circumstances putting Cobb County taxpayer money into the Chamber of Commerce marketing programs that they project to cost $1.2 million a year,” he said. “But from a private perspective I wish them well.”
Byrne said he found Bass’s assertion that Edge “is not a Chamber program” puzzling.
“You don’t get it both ways,” Byrne said. “If it’s not a Chamber program, then whose program is it? I think there’s more to this than we know.”
Byrne said Commissioner Woody Thompson, who he sat next to during the lunch, thought the same thing.
“I said, ‘Woody did you catch that,’ talking about that it’s not a Chamber project, and he said, ‘Yeah, I caught that.’ And I said, ‘What does that mean? And he said, ‘I haven’t the faintest idea, but we’re not going to get involved in it.’”
Thompson said he believes the EDGE program has “a lot of promise,” although it shouldn’t look to the county government for financial support.
“There’s been a little talk about the county getting involved and things like that,” Thompson said. “Sometimes you like to participate in something and sometimes you can’t afford it. That’s exactly where we are right now. We’re still climbing out of this recession.”