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EDC executive director feels heat over budget

The Madera County Economic Development Commission and its executive director Bobby Kahn were on the hot seat at the Madera City Council meeting Wednesday night.

Madera City Council Member Jose Rodriguez raised the question of whether the city was getting anything for the $177,538 Kahn wants from the city next fiscal year to keep the doors open at the EDC offices on Cleveland Avenue. That money represents an increase of $2,402 over the present fiscal year budget.

The EDC also gets money from Madera County, $213,992.25, and Chowchilla, $34,415.94.

Kahn said the money spent on the EDC should not be looked at as an expense, but as an investment.

“We have to look at the bigger picture,” he said. “We have to look at the jobs and taxes that come into the community.”

He said Target had been scheduled to build a store in Madera a few years ago, but that when the recession hit, those plans were put on hold.

A Target store was built in Atwater pre-recession, and one in Fresno, but none in Madera.

Rodriguez said small projects that have come into the city were welcome, but none had the effect of providing a shot of economic growth for the community.

“The thing that frustrates me, year after year,” Rodriguez said, is what our strategy is. Year after year we put these dollars into economic development; but we don’t seem to be getting anything for it. We reach a point where we have to say ‘What’s the plan? Where is all that new business going to come from?’”

Council Member Santos Garcia said he had many questions he wanted to ask about the EDC and its plans, but would like to table the matter until he returned from a business trip next week.

After more discussion, the council decided to table the matter until April 3.

In past years, the EDC budget has passed with few, if any, challenges. But the city of Madera is in a financial pinch, and almost no budgetary increase goes unchallenged.

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