Mayor asks to postpone loan fund for more immediate objective
Stinchcomb says 'soul searching' led to idea to improve infrastructure to lure big employer
She said it is necessary to use the funds instead for infrastructure improvements to lure a specific potential employer to the city.
Stinchcomb told ThisWeek it was a "soul searching" decision to postpone the economic development fund, which has been discussed by council since the first quarter of this year.
"An exciting opportunity has come our way," Stinchcomb said. "After long thought, we've chosen to come to council in the near future with an alternative."
She said Gahanna is one of six sites a major employer is considering, and the money is needed for site preparation and fiber extensions.
Stinchcomb said the company has 300 employees and could add another 200 positions.
"It's a relatively new opportunity, and we aren't shutting the door on an economic development fund," she said. "This change in direction has everything to do with having another opportunity. If we can land this company, it will bring hundreds of jobs to the community. Everyone is looking for shovel-ready sites."
Gahanna's Development Department had recommended contracting with the nonprofit Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) to establish a $375,000 revolving loan fund to assist existing small businesses' expansion efforts and to attract other small businesses.
Gahanna deputy development director Anthony Jones said current economic conditions are limiting small businesses' access to capital, and the proposed program was designed to provide qualified and viable businesses the capital needed to grow and expand their operations.
Last month, Maurice Thompson, director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, threatened a lawsuit against the city and called the proposed legislation "reckless and irresponsible fiscal policy."
He said several Gahanna residents had contacted him about the proposal.
Thompson said the Ohio Constitution (Section 6, Article VIII) prohibits the city from "raising money for or loaning its credit to any private company, corporation or association."
City attorney Tom Weber said that in his opinion, the proposed economic development fund would have passed "legal muster."
"Courts have supported private and public partnerships," he said.
Weber said many points made by Thompson had been rebutted by the city's development department.
"I'm confident we could pass legal muster," he said. "It's not a change in a legal matter but a policy shift."
Council members agreed to indefinitely postpone legislation for the economic development fund.