City Council votes to shift $2,000 in the budget from the Economic Development Corporation to the Exeter Chamber of Commerce

EXETER – Exeter became the second city not to renew its membership with the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation.

The primary focus of the EDC is to generate leads, convert them to clients and assist them in locating opportunities in Tulare County. The ultimate goal is to facilitate new businesses locating in the county. But Exeter officials said they have not seen enough projects in the last few years to justify its membership and voted to opt out of the membership at its June 23 meeting.

“My question is what have they done the last five years for Exeter?” Vice Mayor Barbara Sally asked. “You could go back 10 years probably but I just don’t think they are bringing much in, they are talking about bringing in medical and doctors and that’s [more for] Visalia.”

Councilmember Frankie Alves was also unhappy with the representation on the EDC, especially in light of recent events that would have given Exeter less of a vote on the board of directors.

At its April 22 meeting, the EDC proposed a new governance structure that gave a seat to one elected official from every public entity contributing more than $10,000 to the EDC, which would include the County and the cities of Dinuba, Porterville, Tulare and Visalia. Members contributing less than $10,000 (Farmersville, Exeter, Lindsay and Woodlake) would share a single seat that would rotate annually among representatives for each city. The proposal is one of the reasons the Farmersville City Council voted on April 27 to end its membership after Mayor Greg Gomez called the proposal “egregious.”

The EDC board instead maintained representation for every city and adopted a fixed contribution for cities based solely on their population.

Paul Saldana, executive director of the EDC, wrote a letter to the Exeter council talking about the fixed cost and its shift from being primarily funded by the cities and counties to more private funding from the business community.

“I think that it’s a little too late and a lipstick on a pig,” Councilmember Dave Hail said.

Under the new formula most cities would pay less for their membership. Exeter’s contribution was reduced from $4,691 to $$2,500; Lindsay’s went from $4,211 to $2,500; Porterville’s went from $27,590 to $25,000; Tulare’s went from $36,456 to $25,000; and Visalia’s went from $92,440 to $50,000. Two cities will pay more. Dinuba’s contribution increased from $12,066 to $15,000 and Woodlake’s went from $2,434 to $2,500. Exeter’s contribution would have dropped from $4,691 to $2,500 as of today, July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Alves suggested shifting the funds to the Exeter Chamber of Commerce.

“Even with cuts, the chamber still gives us exemplary service,” Alves said. “Above and beyond really.”

The city had completely cut the chamber’s funding from its 2018 budget but added $2,500 back to the chamber in 2019 and added $250 in 2020. The city had budgeted just $2,000 for the next two years for the chamber but will not be able to double that amount by shifting its EDC funding.

Mayor Mary Waterman-Philpot, the city’s representative on the EDC board, rounded out the vote.

“I don’t feel as if we are getting anything for our money…I feel like our money is better spent [funding] the chamber and I think they are more invested in us,” Mayor Mary Waterman-Philpot said. “I would be inclined to not continue the membership.”

The council unanimously voted 4-0 to discontinue its EDC membership. There was not a fifth vote cast due to a vacancy when Jeremy Petty stepped down from the council last month.

Start typing and press Enter to search