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City moves on plan to create AEDC, commissions consider board appointments

Monday, December 14, 2020 by Seth Smalley

The city continues to move forward with plans to create the Austin Economic Development Corporation and expects its 21-member governing board will be decided by late January.

At their Dec. 7 meeting, members of the Music Commission discussed a Nov. 2 presentation about the AEDC by David Colligan, the interim chief operating officer of the corporation, and formed a five-member working group to privately select their appointee to the board.

The AEDC will be a public-private partnership, governed by a board of designees in various areas of expertise. The board will elect the AEDC’s CEO, and guide other decision-making by the corporation.

“Each representative shall possess demonstrable skills and experience in the areas of industry, public/private partnerships, infrastructure or transportation, real estate development or construction, urban/regional planning, historic preservation, finance, creative and music industry, minority and women-owned businesses (MWBE), and/or workforce,” according to the presentation.

Unlike municipal government, public developers can move at market-pace, accept charitable donations and speed approvals under city oversight. Functioning with the agility of a corporation, the AEDC will be able to execute ideas that are often difficult for a city to implement.

“It formed because there are a lot of ideas that are being floated that are really good, but are hard for the city to execute,” Music Commissioner Oren Rosenthal said.

One of these ideas is a cultural trust. For this, Austin plans to take a page from Pittsburgh’s playbook, ensuring funding for arts and cultural businesses or institutions that might otherwise not survive the city’s fast pace of growth.

“The trust would give valuable cultural institutions, places that have tremendous artistic value that may not make the type of money that is necessary to maintain their downtown addresses – like the Continental Club or Victory Grill – protection from the economic forces that are driving a lot of artistic institutions out of business,” Rosenthal said.

Some other potential roles of the AEDC include managing Austin’s South Central Waterfront, real estate purchases and development, and supporting work to aid those experiencing homelessness. ECHO, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, one of the organizations involved in appointing board members, has been centrally involved in Austin’s efforts to ameliorate homelessness.

According to city recommendations, along with the Music Commission the 21 nominating bodies for members of the board include the city’s Arts Commission, the director of the Economic Development Department and the city’s chief equity officer. Also conspicuously present among the nominating bodies is the Real Estate Council of Austin, whose nominee would represent and advocate for the interests of the city’s real estate industry.

“We want to make sure we have both legal and real estate expertise on the board – some of those key skill sets that come into developing,” Veronica Briseño told the Austin Monitor.  Briseño is interim president and CEO of the AEDC, as well as the city’s economic development director.

Each board member will represent a different area of expertise, according to their respective nominating bodies.

“We’re respecting that every entity is unique and has what might work best for their entity. We also want a board that is not only ethnically diverse and geographically diverse, but also diverse in expertise: a robust and well-rounded board,” Briseño told the Monitor.

Rosenthal echoed these sentiments in describing the Music Commission’s criteria for its candidate.

“We want someone with deep knowledge of working with different socioeconomic and diversity backgrounds, commitment to equity, in addition to someone with experience in achievement and management at high levels of power,” he said. highlighting the need for competency in group settings. The ability to make one’s voice heard is especially important given the board’s relatively large size, he noted.

The working group will meet between Dec. 14 and 18 to review applications and decide its nominee by the next commission meeting in January.

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