The city of Pickerington and Violet Township last week took a step toward an agreement to share an economic development director for both municipalities.

The city of Pickerington and Violet Township last week took a step toward an agreement to share an economic development director for both municipalities.

Pickerington, which has been without an economic development director since Susan Crotty was dismissed on April 4, could soon find a replacement from neighboring Violet Township.

The move to hire Joy Davis, Violet Township's economic development director since October 2007, wouldn't result in a loss for the township, however.

Rather, the township and at least some city officials are working toward an arrangement in which Davis would work on business retention and recruitment for both entities. Under that plan, the two governments would split the costs of Davis' salary and benefits.

"In general, I like the idea of us working together," said Tony Barletta, Pickerington City Council vice president and a member of council's city planning, projects and services committee. "I like a positive move in that direction.

"It's a win-win from a budgetary standpoint. We (Pickerington and Violet Township) are one community. We aren't going to attract business by butting heads."

On June 22, the planning, projects and services committee instructed city manager Bill Vance to work with Violet Township director of operations Bill Yaple to develop a specific proposal for sharing Davis' economic development services.

That plan, which likely would outline her salary, benefits and office location, could come back to the committee as soon as next month.

If approved, it would be brought before the full city council for endorsement.

Township trustees, simultaneously, must officially approve a similar measure.

"We have a void that I would like to fill," Vance said. "I think everybody understands now it's not a topic we want to negotiate for months on end."

The notion of the city and township having a joint economic development director rose, in part, from necessity, and from a renewed effort by the two governments to improve communications and cooperation.

Since Crotty's termination, the township and Davis have voluntarily assisted Pickerington in its efforts to attract new businesses and with efforts to help existing businesses stay and expand.

Although 32 people applied for the city's development services post in the wake of Crotty's departure, Yaple sent a letter to the city on May 13 proposing that Davis handle economic development for both the township and city.

Under the initial proposal, Davis would remain a township employee and the township and city would equally share the costs of her annual salary and benefits.

Jeff Fix, chairman of council's city planning, projects and services committee, asked if the township would be open to making Davis an official city employee under the joint economic development arrangement. Yaple said he would have to discuss it with township trustees, but he wouldn't object to such a move.

Davis' current salary with the township is $57,033. However, her salary could go up if she adds Pickerington's economic development to her official duties.

Crotty was paid $75,000 annually by the city at the time of her termination, and that's the same salary figure the city used when it began advertising for her replacement.

"Economic development is the most important thing, I think, we can work on jointly right now," Fix said. " Economic development is (the city's) No. 1 priority."

The plan for Davis to serve the township and the city received support from the city planning, projects and services committee following a presentation she and Yaple made on June 22.

During the presentation, Davis' economic developer certification with the International Economic Development Council was touted, as was her experience working with developers and site selectors throughout the nation.

Regionally, Davis noted, she's worked with groups such as the Fairfield 33 Development Alliance and Columbus 20/20, which seek to facilitate development through partnerships with governments, businesses and developers.

"I just see (a joint economic development department) as more opportunity and it helps me be more involved making our community be what we see it as being," Davis said.

Yaple said the move would make sense for local development and would help two governments challenged by budget constraints.

"We could all save some dollars and provide the service and not cut the service," he said.

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