Members of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation’s Board of Directors discuss future options for the EDC during a workshop session this past Friday in Orange. Photo by Tommy Mann Jr.

By Tommy Mann Jr. – The Record

The Orange County Economic Development Corporation looks likely to continue in some form or fashion in 2016 and the Board of Directors is considering its options.

The Board of Directors of the Orange County EDC held a workshop session this past Friday at the Orange County Courthouse Annex Building to discuss possibilities of maintaining the EDC through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in September of 2016.

Early this year several local governmental bodies, such as Orange County and the City of Orange, decided to withdraw support of the Orange County EDC and consider other options for an economic development agency. Now, many of those same agencies have opted to reconsider their support while, at the same, reorganizing the EDC.

Mayor Jimmy Sims of Orange suggested the Orange County EDC should utilize a part time employee from January 2016 to September 2016 until funding can be put in place for a full-time employee, if that is the route all voting board members which to consider.

“I would like to maintain a coordinator or director’s position, on a part time basis, so we can keep communication moving,” Sims said. “This person could direct information to the appropriate person or city to which it directly applies, and could keep in contact with those inquiring about Orange County.”

Sims also expressed an idea about the possibility of increasing participation in Orange County EDC decisions, and even funding, by suggesting the inclusion of local chambers of commerce and school districts.

“It would be good to include representatives from the chambers and schools because they all play roles in economic development too,” he added.

Jerry Jones, the city manager of Bridge City, concurred with Sims.

“I think having a part time person is a logical approach,” Jones said. “It’s a great idea, and it gives us time to get funding in place. (Bridge City) wants to be a part of anything going forward, and we think Orange County needs to have an EDC in some form.”

The Board of Directors is still considering the future course for the Orange County Economic Development Corporation. One option would be for a Board of Directors comprised of representatives of cities and county, or another option would be to make the EDC a department of Orange County.

Including local chambers of commerce has been suggested, but it is not a guarantee.

“If any of the chambers of commerce want to be involved, and have a say in decisions, then they would need to contribute to the funding of the EDC in order to have a vote,” Sims said.

Attorney Alan Sanders stated the inclusion of school districts is a possibility, but other lawyers which represent each individual school district would have to determine if it is legal for school districts to contribute funds to the EDC. Otherwise, school districts may have to be limited to informational input only with no voting power.

Local school district superintendents, Dr. Stephen Patterson, Orangefield ISD, Dr. Jay Killgo, Vidor ISD, and Rickey Harris of West Orange-Cove CISD, attended the meeting to ascertain the direction the board was considering for the Orange County EDC.

Patterson stated he would have to consult with the school district’s attorney, as suggested by Sanders, but he liked the fact the Board wants to have input from all five Orange County school districts.

“I think it would be appropriate for districts to have a mechanism for a voice,” Patterson said. “We just have to sort through the legalities of everything first to determine what that might be.”

Another workshop session has been tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18 at the Orange County Courthouse Annex Building.