County to explore RFI process for block grant program management

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

Oct. 14, 2014

WAUKESHA - Beginning next year, Waukesha County will implement a Request For Information process following the Waukesha County Economic Development Corporation’s announcement that it will no longer manage the county’s Community Development Block Grant program.

During his budget presentation to the County Board last month, County Executive Dan Vrakas said he was informed a few months ago that at year’s end, the WCEDC would no longer manage the CDBG program due to the time commitment required.

The CDBG program, which began in 1974, provides communities with resources to address a range of unique community development needs, according to its website.

Additionally, according to the county’s budget book, $95,000 will be set aside next year for economic development. However, rather than allocate those funds to the WCEDC as has been done in years past, the county will begin a “new initiative ... to competitively seek proposals from potential contract agencies to leverage county funds to further county economic development efforts.”

Vrakas said Waukesha County has researched the economic development activities of its peer counties across the state and the nation before deciding that soliciting information through an RFI process is the best way to “ensure the county taxpayers will get the biggest return on their investment.”

“For a long time our county has been able to grow by simply welcoming businesses and assisting them with their expansion plans in Waukesha County,” he said during his budget address. “Times have changed. We need to actively pursue economic development opportunities and let the job creators from around the region, state and the nation know that we want them here in Waukesha County.”

WCEDC CEO Bill Mitchell said he was pleased to have had the opportunity to manage the block grant program, but its requirements became too taxing for his small staff after more than a decade.

“It is capacity for us,” he said. “We are a two-person nonprofit and we were a contractor to manage (the program) for many, many years. It is a lot of work. It is a wonderful program, I think we have deployed all of the funds that the county made available this year for the first time in our history, which is great news.”