COMMENTS BY FRIENDT LETTER TO LIBA BOARD MEMBERS April 26, 2002LIBA Board Members P.O. Box 5784 709 North 48th Street Lincoln, NE 68505 Dear Members of the Board:
Thank you for your March 20, 2002 letter regarding economic development in Lincoln. I agree that economic development must be a continual, pro- active process with measurable goals. I also think that there must be accountability when public funds are involved.
The current LPED structure is working very effectively, judging by performance against their contract criteria and the results they have achieved. Since 1990 over 20,000 jobs have been added in Lincoln. This 30% growth in jobs over the past decade is the highest rate for all Nebraska communities. I'm sure that many LIBA member businesses have participated in, and benefitted from, this robust jobs expansion.
It's exactly why LPED was formed. The original program of work was established through a strategic planning process, coordinated by an outside economic development consultant. Just last year LPED engaged in the same process to revise and refine their strategic focus. The action plan they presented to the City Council for 2001/2002 (which was never covered or reported by the newspaper) is comprehensive and very focused.
Is the plan of work perfect? Nothing ever is. Can improvements or changes be made in order to address a changing environment? Certainly. We have in the LPED board a very impressive group of leaders who are able to make changes within the scope of the agreement and with the agreement itself.
I believe one of those changes should be to accept other organizations as new "full partners" in LPED, if they are willing to make a similar financial investment as the city and the Chamber have done. Otherwise, the co-chairs have the ability to appoint individuals who represent various interests such as the University of Nebraska, unions, neighborhoods, small businesses, etc.
Just as important as broader representation on the LPED board, is representation of business interests in city government. That's why I supported the creation of an economic development position in the Mayor's office. For years we have had a city ombudsman and a human rights officer. Just recently the Mayor added an Affirmative Action director. It's about time we are giving as much attention to Lincoln's business professionals and business owners.
I agreed to support the proposed position under the premise and promise that it will be funded from current budget sources. This position as presented to the media and the public will coordinate with LPED and amplify, not duplicate, development activities.
Finally, the LPED agreement allows for, and LPED has agreed to, a review of budgets, activities and personnel. They have asked that it be conducted under terms of the joint City/LPED agreement and that it not be handled as a televised event. Both are reasonable requests in my opinion. As soon as the results of this reveiw are available, I will be happy to share the information with you and discuss my views on economic development for the City of Lincoln. Sincerely, Glenn A. Friendt, Lincoln City Council Copy: Mayor Don Wesely Jim Willis, Central Labor Union President Bob Workman, County Commissioner Chair Annette McRoy, City Council Chair Harvey Perlman, UNL Chancellor Paul McCue, LPED