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Columbia's new economic development director eligible for yearly bonuses from REDI

Friday, June 5, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The city's new economic development director is eligible for as much as $20,000 in annual bonuses that would be paid by private investors in Regional Economic Development Inc.

J. Mike Brooks will begin his duties on July 15. His post involves working not only for the city, which will pay him $120,000 per year, but also serving as president of REDI. REDI is a public-private agency run as a partnership among Boone County, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, MU and the city of Columbia.

City Manager Bill Watkins said the bonuses could be as much as $20,000 if Brooks meets all the conditions in the REDI contract.

REDI Chairman Bob Black said Brooks will be evaluated on four points of performance: developing economic plans with MU, attracting new businesses to Columbia, encouraging retention of existing industry and increasing private investment in REDI by $25,000.

Black said the extra incentives are new to the REDI president's contract but necessary to fill the post.

"It's what it takes to get high-powered people in this position," Black said, adding that he sees no conflict of interest in giving bonuses to the soon-to-be city official. The bonuses will be paid by private investors who pay to become members of REDI.

Watkins also said he sees no conflict in REDI offering Brooks the bonuses, which are common for many economic development directors.

Brooks said he was offered bonuses in his current position as president of the Indiana Health Industry Forum and when he served as associate vice president for research and economic development at Utah State University.

Watkins said he would be unwilling to pay bonuses as part of a city compensation package.

"I would never allow it for a police chief or city manager," Watkins said. "This hybrid partnership we have with REDI is a different beast."

However, Watkins also pointed to the growing trend of having to pay higher salaries to attract outside talent. Brooks, for example, will be paid about $50,000 more than REDI's interim director, Bernie Andrews, who will become vice president of REDI when Brooks arrives.

 

"In order to be in the ball park of (what) we were looking for, we had to bump up the figure," Watkins said.

At the same time, Watkins said, there are existing city department heads who are underpaid. "I think, personally, that we have a lot of department heads that are not being paid what they can get by going out on the market," Watkins said.

Watkins said he would like to begin training younger employees to eventually take over department positions when they become vacant.


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