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Aldermen split on proposal to add business specialist

Economic development director handling duties of three

July 13, 2011

With any increase in property tax revenues relying solely on new development, Wauwatosa needs to bring in projects to fill city coffers.

Hiring a small business specialist could provide more manpower to land developments and help retain and grow successful businesses that already call Wauwatosa home, city staff said Tuesday.

The Employee Relations Committee was asked to support creating a business specialist position primarily to assist small businesses. Adding the position would free up Economic Development Director Paulette Enders to concentrate on bigger projects and more long-term issues, she said.

Enders gave an example of work she was handling but would likely become the responsibility of the specialist. An existing small business that wants to expand is having difficulty with building acquisition. The same business also finds banks reluctant to provide a loan, so she is helping the owner find financial assistance.

"They are an established business that wants to grow," she said. "Someone like that needs even more care."

Two oppose adding employees

The request was met with a 2-2 vote, with Aldermen Peter Donegan and Cheryl Berdan in favor of the position and Michael Walsh and Brian Ewerdt opposed. The issue is expected to return to the committee in two weeks, at which time Alderwoman Jill Organ may be present and act as the tie-breaker.

Half the committee wasn't sold that a second employee was necessary to accomplish economic development tasks or that now was the time to add any employees to the city's payroll. Proposed compensation includes a $51,000 to $71,000 salary range plus benefits.

"I promised my constituents that I wouldn't support increasing the number of full-time employees working for the city," Alderman Michael Walsh said after the meeting. "I don't think we should be adding to the employee head count at City Hall when we're considering cutting in other areas of the city such as the Fire Department."

Last fall, Walsh opposed allocating money for the position in the 2011 budget, but he was out-voted and the position was funded for a mid-year start.

"I've had no change of heart," he said.

Study suggests three needed

The recommendation for a small business specialist stems from a third-party study of the city's development structure and resources. In addition to Enders' position, consultants suggested a business specialist and a Community Development Block Grant coordinator, for a total of three economic development employees.

At this point, Enders is handling the duties for all three of those jobs.

"I'm not asking for both of those positions now, I'm only asking for one person," she said in a interview.

In the job description, it described the business specialist as a liaison to neighborhood business development groups such as the Village Business Improvement and North Avenue Neighborhood Alliance. Other responsibilities would include commercial attraction and retention, marketing and outreach, loan and grant assistance, and business counseling services.

Enders called the position "a right-hand person to me."

Next Step

WHAT: The Employee Relations Committee will discuss whether to support creating a business specialist position for the Economic Development Department.

WHEN: 7 p.m. July 26

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

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