Off The Record: Are there too many promotional agencies in Boyle County?

June 28, 2004|HERB BROCK

The recent flap involving the mayor and two members of Danville City Commission not wanting to fully fund Heart of Danville was viewed mainly in a political context. It appeared the trio was wanting to use its budget-making power as a way to punish the Heart for the agency's push for a downtown parking garage, a campaign that rubbed the mayor and the two commissioners the wrong way.

In that context, it was easy for me to side with the Heart, an agency which generally has a solid track record of doing its best to keep the downtown alive. But if you look at it in the broader context of good government - that is, what is the best, most efficient structure upon which Danville, and all of Boyle County, for that matter, can grow and thrive, then I have to step back and ask a question:

Is the Danville-Boyle County community best served by having a variety of promotional agencies with similar purposes and goals? Or would it be better, more efficient government to consolidate these agencies into one organization?


A few decades ago, basically the lone organization that promoted the community's industrial, commercial and, in some ways, cultural lives was the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce. Then, in the 1960s, the community was blessed to have a visionary named John Hill Bailey who had developed a plan and a strategy for industrial development; thus was born the Boyle County Industrial Foundation and its companion agency, the Boyle County Industrial Council. The foundation and council each has a board and chairperson, and the foundation has an executive director and office.

Over the last 20-plus years three other promotional agencies were conceived and created: Heart of Danville, the Community Development Council, the Convention and Tourism Bureau, and the Third Street Development Corp. Each of these agencies has its own board, chairperson and executive director or president and, in most cases, its own office.

This means there are seven promotional agencies serving a community of just under 30,000 people. Is this too many agencies for a relatively small community? On the surface, it would seem so. And over the years, I have heard from several residents who have complained to me about there being so many groups, absorbing so many funds for generally the same mission of promoting Danville and Boyle County as great places to live, work and visit.

Putting the matter into an even broader context, concern over issues of duplication, finances and efficiency also have been voiced about having three city governments and a county government and two school systems serving a community that is not all that large geographically as well as demographically.

Call me forward-thinking, naive and or, as some have called me in the past, a "communist," I generally lean toward consolidation of services and programs when it comes to government. Yes, I think there are too many counties in Kentucky and would favor some plan that would erase a lot of borders of the 120 counties and create either fewer, larger counties or a confederation of sorts of groups of existing counties similar geographically to the state's 16 area development districts.

But before taking up political asylum in Havana, let me return to a more acceptable and realistic approach and address the original matter raised earlier in this space. As previously stated, it does appear there are too many promotional agencies. It would seem that most or all of these agencies could be rolled into a central, umbrella organization, like the chamber of commerce. They could retain their identity but their functions would all be led, overseen, coordinated, performed and funded within one structure.

Yes, in my "communist" world, that would be the way I would go. But before those of you who have raised concerns over the years about the multitudinous agencies serving this community applaud this consolidation approach, you and I need to realize at least three critical things:

First, some of these agencies were created the way they were expressly so they could serve as receptacles for various grants earmarked for the specific programs they oversee.

Second, these agencies generally have served this community well in their current forms. They have been and are being led by dedicated people who don't get paid much, if at all, but work hard promoting their particular efforts toward improving their particular parts of the community.

Third, these agencies and their leaders generally work together, share staffs and information and, thus, have created their own, unofficial umbrella. Indeed, four of the agencies - the chamber, tourism bureau, development council, and industrial foundation - all are located in the same building, the McClure-Barbee Building at Fourth Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Heart of Danville has its office on Main Street.

These three facts are compelling enough for me to answer the question posed at the beginning of this with: yes, the community is being served well by all these agencies, and no, it is not time for consolidation.

But the "commie" in me makes me suggest that it wouldn't be a bad thing for our leaders, elected and otherwise, to monitor the situation and make sure that these very important agencies continue to sing from the same hymnal and not form their own choirs.

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