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Local EDC under fire for performance and secrecy

By: TED LAKE
Staff Writer AZ SilverBelt

Reprinted with Permission: AZ SilverBelt June 30
For the first time since its inception in March 2007, the Southern Gila County Economic Development Corporation has two very aggressive leaders who want the organization to move now and get more jobs in the community by pushing for new private prison developments in town, but not factories or small industries.
However, public relations with SGCEDC in this big push to support a prison have been badly damaged starting with a quasi press conference with tense discussions with reporters, being told they could only ask one question and others not even getting a chance to ask their questions in full about the medium security prison complex, in particular more information about its developers. On top of this, Globe city councilman Terry Wheeler came out saying the EDC told him he wasn’t welcome at the early June press conference and to stay away.

Was that a smart idea, telling a city councilman who has voted in the past to give bed tax monies to the SGCEDC to get out of their business?

And then last week KQSS Gila 101.9 FM was told their reporters were not allowed to come to the SGCEDC Globe luncheon with two state law makers and  representatives of the companies involved in the medium security prison complex proposed on state land northeast of Globe. They did let three other reporters into the event under the restriction they could not ask any questions, and only after these reporters appeared uninvited. Despite issues with some of the local reporters, and a complaint by Councilman Wheeler, Jerry McCreary, President and CEO of the local economic development corporation, along with its Executive Director Melissa Woodall, who lives in Mesa, didn’t let all of this stop them. They have aggressively moved ahead in their efforts in a “full court press” to drum up all the support they can for the prison and hopefully make it happen if the Arizona Department of Corrections approves the bid submitted by the Emerald Correction Management Corporation. Emerald was one of four firms which submitted bids on May 28 to build private prisons to house up to 5,000 state prison inmates here in Arizona. Last Friday, DOC told the Silver Belt it still was reviewing all bids and it was taking longer than expected and the date the contracts would be awarded was unknown at this time. Woodall, who resigned earlier, remains on the job pushing for additional support from the community and state lawmakers.
The EDC has not come up with a survey showing it has the full support of the Globe-Miami community in bringing prisons here. However, the Globe city council did give its approval for the private prison project by a vote of 4 to 2.

And who are the people involved in the Southern Gila County Economic Development Corporation according to records filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission?
Jerry McCreary, President and Chief Executive Officer; William Marshall, Other Officer; Thomas Gough, Secretary; Cami Lucero, Treasurer; Mickie Nye, Vice President and Statutory Agent for the corporation. Others include Melissa Woodall, Executive Director; while other Directors are listed as Ian Lamont, Mike Pastor, Adam Hawkins, Jesus Canizales, Mick Holder, Bob Zache, Claudia Dalmolin, Rick Powers, Lee Randall, ex-officio member Lerry Alderman, Patricia Burke and Russ Fetterman.

Since March 2007, the Gila County Board of Supervisors has approved $475,000 for the Southern Gila County Economic Development Corporation. And just this month, the supervisors put another $50,000 in its new budget for the organization. The EDC also has received smaller amounts of monies for several towns in Southern Gila County, the San Carlos Apache Tribe and some private donations.

Although most of its monies are coming entirely from taxpayers, the local EDC does not announce pubic meetings on its activities nor explains in detail how it spends taxpayers’ monies.
Nor does it make any public announcements as to openings on its regular board of directors or offer those positions to the general public. Key decisions of the SGCEDC are made by a secret executive board which does not have minutes available about its separate meetings, although its regular board of directors does. Also, this organization will not participate in a regular county audit on its spending of taxpayers’ dollars, but instead has its own private audit report prepared with a copy given to the Gila County Board of Supervisors.

The issue of secrecy in this corporation came up two years ago during a regular board meeting when a former vice president blew up and announced he was resigning in a heated and loud verbal battle with the EDC President. The then VP of the organization was bitterly complaining that even though he was vice president, another secret group was running the SGCEDC. He listed his education background and work experience which was in Casino Operations and said he was very insulted for being kept in the dark on everything and wasn’t allowed to participate in important discussions, but he was a key officer in the local non-profit corporation.

Contrary to what some people  have believed, the Southern Gila County Economic Development Corporation has not been involved in an all-out effort to bring new industries or small manufacturing plants to town. The minutes of the organization indicates only a minimal effort has been made since early 2007.
In earlier discussions about the prison project with the organization’s Executive Director, Melissa Woodall, we asked her when the EDC was going to attempt to bring new industries to the community. Woodall said that was not the plan at this time, the emphasis would be on more “quality of life” projects and added Globe-Miami was not yet ready for new manufacturing companies to come here with new employees.

An email from a member of the EDC Board to a Globe radio station owner does more than  confirm Woodall’s statement and what the corporation’s minutes reflect and it follows:
“Bill: If you were at the economic development meeting when we were all broken into groups maybe you remember why? At that time, several small manufacturing companies had looked at our area, and after their evaluation, had decided not to locate here. When asked why, their feedback was that while they could get much labor, there were some positions that they would have to hire from outside the area. Turned out they were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to attract quality people because of things like schools, doctors, parks, libraries, housing, etc. Also turned out Globe-Miami is ugly. Based on this feedback the EDC decided to try to improve those areas and these “quality of life” groups were formed to make southern Gila County more appealing.”

To date the local economic development corporation has received more than $500,000 in taxpayers monies since early 2007.

Writer’s Comments: Some concerns the community and the EDC should be looking at:  First: Freeport McMoran says the life of the Miami mine after it reopens will only be five years. Quadra says the Carlota mine has only 10 years. Both of these mines are producing from low grade ore bodies about 1/2 of 1 percent copper.
Second: Resolution is presently developing a deep shaft and exploration work. If the land exchange passes, it will take at least four years before a complete environmental review can be done. Next will be the permitting process, which is lengthy. Keep in mind the permitting process for the Carlota Mine took 16 1/2 years because of protests from environmentalists and lawsuits. Expect more of the same for the proposed Resolution Copper underground Mine. San Carlos Tribal Council Chairman Wendsler, who does not support our copper mines   along with Tribal  Attorney Joe Sparks, continue to drum up support against our new copper mine. Through the Nosie and Sparks connections with the Inter Tribal Council, they now have the  support of 26 tribes against the Resolution mine, along with several environmental groups. Too, the Sparks law firm has requested from the office of Arizona Department of Quality a copy of every permit application when it is filed by Resolution Copper for the develoment of its new $4 billion 1400- job mine that is projected to have a life of more than 30 years.

Third: Start thinking.
Where is the Globe-Miami job base going to be five years from now and 10 years, even with a new prison.   And if the EDC for the next decade continues to do its big  “Quality of Life” projects, what good is all this going to do to help our local job situation?  Should the Gila County Supervisors start looking for a consultant or lobbyist in attempts to bring new industry to the area with the monies they have been presently giving the EDC?  Should this be the same with the city of Globe with its bed tax monies which are currently being given to EDC?

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3 comments

  1. Thanks for reprinting this June 30 Silver Belt piece.

    The silver lining in the private prison debate…… the bright light shined upon a very basic problem surrounding the EDC.

    Any entity funded with taxpayer dollars that is not completely transparent and accountable must be terminated.

    Ask any taxpayer/citizen.

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