A broader role for Independence economic development group?

Jeff Fox
What's going on
Jeff Fox

Shifting the marketing of Independence tourism to a group outside City Hall is worth a look – with a few key questions in mind. 

Local attorney Steve Mauer has served the interests of the community ably and well in a variety of roles through the years. He currently leads the board of the Independence Economic Development Council. He and others have been looking at moving the city’s tourism division over to the EDC. 

If that means getting more mileage out of tax money spent to attract tourists to the city of Truman and trails, then by all means let’s get out pen and paper and see what can be done. But city leaders should bear in mind a couple of key points: 

• Handing over the city’s hotel/motel tax money to an outside group to promote tourism still leaves in place the necessity to fully and regularly account to the public for every dime of that money. 

• Tourism is currently in a city department charged with several functions – running parks, promoting tourism, maintaining historic sites such as the Vaile Mansion and Bingham-Waggoner Estate. But the ICED tasked with both economic development and tourism would be a multi-headed beast as well. 

Attracting businesses and attracting tourists are two very different functions. Different goals, different audiences, difference messages, different measures of success. 

Is there any synergy here? Maybe. Let’s have the conversation. 

The city has great cards to play in tourism, from unique local history to a presidential library and the attractions that come with being part of a larger metro area. 

But in attracting industry, the city holds a lesser hand, and it suffers from a lack of political will to move ahead. The city said no to a significant development plan in the Little Blue River valley two years ago, giving other potential investors pause. 

The EDC alone cannot change that, nor should it be expected to. It’s not in charge of zoning, tax breaks or utility rates. That all comes back to the city. 

This issue – what does Independence really want, and what tradeoffs are acceptable – is at the heart of the bigger conversation the community needs to have. 

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365, jeff.fox@examiner.net or on Twitter @FoxEJC.