City Council President Bill Hall wants the City of Williamsport to hire an economic development director to serve as a point of contact for developers and market the city's assets.
And Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is recommending a salary of $70,000 and a budget of $95,000 for the position, which includes salary, benefits, travel and marketing of the city.
An informal survey of council members indicated support for the position, which was eliminated by the mayor in his second term. That support is especially strong if the position can pay for itself and there are indications that may be possible, especially with natural gas impact fee money soon coming the city's way.
But all this support doesn't matter if the position is not used correctly.
Ideally, the person in this position should be the contact for interested developers who want to at least inquire about doing business in the city. The mayor both now and in the future should be the personal salesman of the city based on what the economic development director tells him or her.
Mayor Campana has taken a very aggressive, hands-on, single-minded approach to economic development in the city. A proposal for professional hockey at Bowman Field was hatched without informing the prime tenants, the Williamsport Crosscutters, and approved within three days.
Plans for the block being vacated by the YMCA downtown have gone through several blueprints, with the fate of the Pickelner Arena seemingly changing daily.
While the City of Williamsport has seen commercial development on many fronts, the shoot-from-the-hip approach at least publicly probably doesn't present the city in the best light. Mayors will change, but the city needs to maintain an image of steadiness to remain attractive to the most potential developers, no matter who is in the office.
Beyond that, mayors have to worry about crime and fires and upkeep of streets and parks and snow removal and mass transit. Somebody needs to do the detail work on economic development while they are keeping their mind on other, necessary functions of the office.
We like the idea of an economic development director, but its worth will depend on how the office is used. It has to be more than a figurehead position.