Richard Carmean will serve as interim director of economic development for Milford as part of the $10,000 economic developement plan put together recently.
There’s a familiar face in charge of the Milford government’s newest project.
Four months ago, the city paid consultant John Rhodes $10,000 to put together an economic-development plan for Milford. At the end of January, he came back with his biggest recommendation — to hire a full-time director of economic development. It would be that prerson’s job to work with business owners in Milford to keep them successful, and to “sell” the town to businesses looking for a new home.
“We have to sell ourselves to stay aggressive,” said council member Garrett Grier, chairman of the city’s economic-development committee. “Unless you’re trying to stay aggressive, you’re not going to get anywhere.”
It’s also an expensive one. Council members said it would likely cost $60,000 or more to hire somebody with the training and experience for that job, plus benefits. That’s a huge commitment for a city that needed layoffs to balance this year’s budget.
“There’s a price tag, and we just don’t know if it’ll work,” Pikus said.
So they decided to start with a five-month trial period, from the start of February through the end of June, when next year’s budget will be written and voted on. And they brought in a old hand to do the job: former Milford City Manager and chief of police Richard Carmean, who retired in 2008.
Once they decided to start with a trial period, Grier said, Carmean was the only hire that made sense.
“He knows the people in the city, the state, the businesses, because he’s worked with them all before, as city manager, which means he can come in on day one and start working,” Grier said. “If we hired somebody who was new to the area, first of all we’d have to convince them to relocate for a five-month job. Even after that, it would take them a few months just to get up to speed on everything that Richard came in knowing.”
“I know Milford down to which buildings are vacant downtown,” Carmean said. “Just for instance, If I meet with somebody who wants to move their business but doesn’t want to build from scratch, I can tell them which buildings are open that would be a good fit.”
Carmean is being paid about $500 a week to do the job through the end of June — about $11,000 for the entire time. That money will come from a fund built up with the sale of land in Milford’s Airport Road business park.
Because he’s only being brought on as a part-time employee, he’ll keep collecting his retirement from the city during that time.
“It’s a bargain compared to what you’d have to pay someone on the open market,” Pikus said.
But once those five months are up, Carmean said, he’s not interested in taking the job full-time. Whether or not the job becomes permanent, he plans to go back to full-time retirement this July.
“I’m retired,” Carmean said. “If they hire a full-time person, I’m not interested.”
Both Grier and Carmean said it’s entirely possible the job won’t continue past summer.
“It’s not enough just to make an impact,” Carmean said. “This person will have to make enough of a difference to offset their salary, benefits, everything. With the economy we’re in, that’s not a sure thing at all.”
In the meantime, he’s putting together short-term and long-term plans that he hopes will help grow the Milford economy.
“We need to set up communications with the businesses that are already here, to help them in any way the city can if they’re struggling,” he said. “In the long term, there has got to be a package put together that highlights everything, from medical services to safety to education to the quality of life we enjoy.”
In particular, he hopes to convince more businesses to move to the business park. In the future, he said, he’d like to see a junior-achievement program put in place to help make a name for Milford as a town with a strong workforce.
Grier said he wants all the public input he can get on the city’s economic-development plan. His committee holds open meetings at 5:30 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month in city hall, and he’s also looking for people willing to serve on an advisory board.
“The more input the better, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “We want business owners in there, but not just them. We want all aspects of the community.”
The council put together another economic-development council in 2007, but that focused exclusively on businesspeople, and petered out after a few months of meetings.
“I don’t know about that committee,” said Grier, who joined the council in 2009. “This isn’t them.”