By Travis Gulbrandson
The City of Vermillion has signed on to become the lead investor in the second Vermillion Now! campaign.
The city council pledged to contribute $100,000 a year for five years beginning in 2014 during their regular meeting Monday night.
The money will be split evenly between the city’s Bed, Board and Booze fund and Second Penny funds.
Steve Howe, executive director of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce & Development Company (VCDC) said the goal is to raise $1.65 million in support of the program, with the overall goal of making Vermillion a “destination community.”
“We need to provide fulfilling jobs, we need to provide adequate and affordable housing and top-notch amenities, and we need to invest in making Vermillion a very interesting place,” Howe said Monday. “We think that these kinds of areas will grow the community and reverse that trend of diminishing population base.”
The first Vermillion Now! campaign helped bring several hundred new jobs and increased the payroll in the community by $15 million, with $8 million more scheduled when Eagle Creek is completed.
However, Howe said that job growth has outpaced the available workforce, and that Vermillion is too dependent on commuters.
The poverty level has continued to increase, as well, he said.
With the city’s support, Vermillion Now! 2 could help to reverse some of those trends, Howe said.
Monday’s decision increases the city’s support of the Vermillion Now! campaign. During the first campaign, the city contributed $450,000 in cash and in-kind funds.
Howe said he wanted to assure the public that financial oversight is “extremely important” to the campaign.
“There (are) no unilateral decisions made on how these funds are spent,” he said. “Every check has a dual signature.”
Additionally, all expenses more than $2,500 require the approval of the VCDC board, which has two representatives from the city.
No expenses more than $10,000 can be made without the approval of both the VCDC board and the Advisory Governance Council, he said.
“There are a lot of eyes looking at these funds,” Howe said.
During a meeting last month, Howe said the VCDC commissioned a survey last summer, the results of which indicated the public would support a second campaign.
“I personally conducted this survey with 55 individuals here, and we tested several things,” said David Madigan of Convergent Nonprofit, which did the survey. “We were interested in what the economy looked like, and what the projection of the economy may be. We received very positive response and reply to that.
“We were interested in how the public looked at the results of Vermillion (Now!) 1. Again, we received very, very positive results on that,” he said.
Convergent also tested a prospectus plan for Vermillion Now! 2, and also received a positive response, Madigan said.
“The results of that survey have really laid the groundwork for Vermillion Now! 2,” he said. “The response back on Vermillion Now! 2 – while it was very, very positive – gave us some ideas to do some refinements.”
On Monday, Howe said he and Convergent are in the process of compiling the results and refinements to come up with the official plan for Vermillion Now! 2 that they can present to prospective investors.
The city council approved the request unanimously, with several members citing the success of the first campaign.
“Five years ago when we started this, we were in the midst of a severe recession,” said Steve Ward. “This council chipped in a good portion of the funding for that, and it has worked. …
“The important thing … about this endeavor is that there is a strategic plan to the use of the funds,” he said. “There is an idea of where we should go, so I think the public has a direct interest in supporting this endeavor again.”