KEDA board ponders organization’s future

HANCOCK – The Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance will partner with the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region in an effort to rethink the organization after the impending retirement of Executive Director Phil Musser (see related story).

KEDA’s executive committee considered two other approaches after Musser announced his plans to retire at the end of the year: keeping everything the way it is, or merging with other community organizations. At Wednesday’s KEDA meeting, KEDA board member Glen Simula said the partnership made the most sense.

KEDA will remain a separate entity funded by membership dues. WUPPDR will help in the search for a new executive director and also provide administrative services and offices. The organizations will start working together on grants and other activities.

“It’s working together, where it makes sense, putting both of our strengths together in writing proposals so the proposal is stronger, putting both of our voices together when talking with state legislators on what the needs are in the western U.P.,” Simula said. “All of these things I believe will be stronger with two parties projecting the same message to folks outside of this area.”

Future plans include jointly applying for grants and putting the executive director under the WUPPDR’s supervision. The KEDA board would become WUPPDR’s primary economic guidance arm, and the new KEDA executive director will become director of economic services for WUPPDR.

In time, the geographic focus of KEDA may also grow from Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw counties to encompass the six-county area.

Musser said the third phase of the transitional approach would be a merger of the two organizations.

“Whether it gets that far or not is unknown at this point,” he said after Wednesday’s meeting. “It would depend on how the membership feels about it, and how it actually works.”

KEDA and WUPPDR’s boards and executive committees have met and come up with a broad outline for the transition, Musser said. The next step will be negotiating some kind of contract for WUPPDR to provide administrative services.

“Hopefully that will be in place by the time the new executive director steps into the position,” he said. “I’ve also told the KEDA board that if they need me to stay around a little longer for transition purposes, I’ll do that.”

There’s no time frame set for the transformation, Musser said.

“The real issue is how can we best deliver economic services to this community, and that has always been at the forefront of what we’ve been talking about and thinking about,” he said.