Appleton support could set fire to Ignite Fox Cities

Appleton’s council voted Wednesday to include $72,000 in its 2013 budget for a regional economic development campaign, which could spur other municipalities to follow suit.

Ignite Fox Cities, a program built by the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, asks for $1 for each resident from counties and municipalities next year. Three counties and 14 municipalities included the funding in proposed budgets, and the response has been varied.

Outagamie County, for instance, voted to isolate its $150,000 portion in a contingency fund that would need a two-thirds vote to be used.

Larry Burkhardt, Chamber executive vice president/chief economic development officer, said Appleton’s inclusion could provide needed momentum.

“It’s been a good week because we not only got this public sector investment, but several private sector investments committed, too,” Burkhardt said. “We’re at two-thirds of our goal at this point.”

For 2013, the group wants to establish a budget of $800,000. It has $550,000 secured as of last week.

Asked if he thought Appleton’s support would sway Outagamie County supervisors, Executive Tom Nelson described the board as “tough but fair.”

“I’m hopeful that as they dig deeper and their questions are answered they will share my enthusiasm and optimism for this initiative,” Nelson wrote in an email.

The trepidation has largely been about control and accountability for the public/private venture.

Karen Harkness, Appleton’s community and economic development director, said she’s working to create a memorandum of understanding for Appleton’s share of the money, outlining scope of services, reporting requirements and governance.

The council saw a preview of the contract last week.

— Nick Penzenstadler: 920-996-7226, or npenzenstadler@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @npenzenstadler

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