The report also suggests that Polk County's business development efforts could be more effective with fewer economic development groups operating in the county.
The county and CFDC officials hired consultants last year to review the CFDC's organizational structure before the agency names its next director. The CFDC, which provides countywide economic development services, is made up of a publicly funded department that works in concert with CFDC Inc., a public-?private group funded by ?private-sector dollars.
"The restructuring of the countywide economic-?development delivery system is essential to future success in Polk County," reads the report from KMK Consulting in Cincinnati and Thompson Wesley Wolfe from Orlando. "The future delivery system should be driven by a more effective CFDC Inc. … The effective positioning of CFDC Inc. should be driven by the private sector; and it should be the private sector that provides the majority of the required resources."
The consultants say Polk's economic development program needs more involvement and leadership from "top-tier" executives from the county's largest private firms.
"I think the county's doing a fine job with the CFDC but I think the private board has been underutilized," said Greg Littleton, chief executive of Citizens Bank and Trust and a member of the CFDC's steering committee. "I think there's a lot of talent that could be tapped into for the betterment of the county."
Members of CFDC Inc.'s board of directors also should be expected to function as "investors" by making annual contributions to the ?organization, perhaps ?between $1,000 and $10,000, the report says.
"While ‘members' often seek immediate benefits when joining an organization, ‘investors' financially commit for the long term, thus providing resources needed to successfully carry out the organization's mission," it says. "?‘Investors' in an economic-development organization have the unified vision of a prosperous economy through the creation and retention of high-wage, high-value jobs."
The consultants note that requiring investments from board members could be viewed as "pay to play," but they say it "should have nothing to do with indiscriminate access to leads, prospects and projects." The report says city- and community-based economic development groups also should be able to participate even if they can't contribute financially.
The CFDC needs to generate more private-sector funding for countywide economic development programs, bringing the organization more in line with "best practice" economic development groups, the consultants say. Currently, CFDC Inc. brings in roughly $50,000 per year from the private sector, compared with its $1.2 million public budget.
The consultants say current public funding should be maintained to keep economic development programs stable as more private dollars are sought, but ultimately, the report recommends that employees involved in economic development be transitioned from the county payroll to the private sector within three years.
In producing the report, the consultants met with government officials, business leaders and other stakeholders from across the county. The report says a perception exists that the way the CFDC handles new business leads and prospects is "ineffective, perhaps even biased." As a result, the CFDC needs a new way of handling business prospects that is "well communicated to all stakeholders," the report says.
The consultants also say it is unusual for a county of Polk's size to have multiple public-private economic development groups (such as those based in Lakeland and Haines City), creating an arrangement that is "not ?necessarily efficient and effective."
"The goal for Polk County should be the evolution of an economic-development delivery structure that recognizes the value of less economic-development organizations," the document says.
Jerry Miller, who serves as president of CFDC Inc. this year, said he agrees, to an extent. "I think the CFDC could be the organization to pull the other (economic development groups) together," Miller said. Still, the local economic development groups are a valued part of their communities, he said.
"I think for the elected officials in each city, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to bring jobs to these communities. It's the old thing, you look out for yourself best," Miller said.
Steve Scruggs, director of the Lakeland Economic Development Council, says his group has been effective working both on its own and in partnership with the CFDC.
"It's a pretty diverse county and there are a lot of different needs in different communities," Scruggs said. "We've worked together with the CFDC for 25 years and it's worked pretty well. I'm not sure why that would need to change."
Other suggestions in the consultants' report include a name change and new brand for CFDC Inc. to help distinguish the group and to avoid confusion with CFDC.
Also, the consultants say that CFDC Inc. needs a more appropriate facility. The CFDC moved into the new Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Auburndale in 2010, which the organization shares with the county's tourism and sports marketing staff, but the consultants recommend a "first-class, modern, private-sector office."
The reason for the suggested move: creating stronger first impressions with new business prospects.
CFDC officials meet Monday at 2:30 p.m. in the Lake Myrtle Sports Complex to discuss the results of the report. It is open to the public.
[ Kyle Kennedy can be reached at or 863-802-7584. ]
<a href="http://www.theledger.com/article/20120201/NEWS/120209953/1001/BUSINESS?Title=Consultants-Restructure-Central-Florida-Development-Counciltag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.theledger.com/article/20120201/NEWS/120209953/1001/BUSINESS?Title=Consultants-Restructure-Central-Florida-Development-CouncilThu, 02 Feb 2012 07:07:57 GMT">Consultants: Restructure Central Florida Development Council