Debbie Hickman
Special to The Gardner News
City council members heard presentations from two community organizations at the April 21 meeting; each requesting funds.
Both the Chamber of Commerce for Southwest Johnson County and the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation requested funding; $20,000 for the chamber and $35,000 for the SWJEDC.
The chamber’s focus is to partner with the city, said Stacy Boyajian, chamber chairman. “We want to invest our time and talent to Gardner.”
Saying the Chamber is the city’s information hub, “We can be there. We are there,” she said.
Boyajian said a task force had been created to build a strong and correct organization.
“People have stepped up,” Boyajian said. “We are starting new; we are starting fresh.”
The chamber changed its name from the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce at the beginning of  2014, and Steve Devore, president, resigned mid-March. In April the Chamber board issued a statement that forms had not been filed with the Internal Revenue to designate it as tax-exempt since 2009.
Larry Fotovich, councilmember, asked about the recent name change and how the Chamber differentiated from the SWJEDC.
The name has not been legally changed, Boyajian said, but the board is putting thought into it.
Fotovich also asked how the new Chamber name differentiates it from the SWJEDC.
The difference, Boyjian said, is because the Chamber is localized and close-knit.
Steve Shute, councilmember, said he believed it was important that when the city makes an investment in an organization that the money was being managed internally.
“Accountability is good for anyone,” Boyajian said.
Communication and updates are important, Shute said.
In the SWJEDC presentation Tom Riederer, chairman, asked for $35,000, a $15,000 increase over last year’s investment. Riederer said the organization’s core emphasis has been on start-up businesses, existing businesses, new business development and marketing and the business environment.
Highlights in 2013 included 23 new projects, BNSF intermodal opened, Homestead interchange and at least five retail businesses. There have been more than $1.5 billion in new projects in the area, and more than 700 jobs added at New Century AirCenter.
Shute asked for a breakdown of business projects between Gardner, New Century and Edgerton.
Riederer said he make that information available.
No action was taken on either funding request, and staff did not make a recommendation.