The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

December 19, 2012

Deal between city of Pittsburg, chamber draws criticism

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Whether Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, should assume responsibility for economic development for the city became a contentious matter at a special City Commission meeting Tuesday.

The commission considered, and eventually approved, a one-year agreement in which the chamber would take over economic development. The city, in turn, would pay the chamber $60,000.

“This is not a unique concept,” said City Manager Daron Hall. “This is something that Lawrence and Manhattan and Joplin (Mo.) and Overland Park and Hutchinson and other cities all do.”

Four commissioners voiced support for the agreement.

“Blake is a known entity. ... He has been working hand-in-hand with this city for a number of years,” said Commissioner Marty Beezley. “I think it’s a great advantage to us that we have a known entity in our community who is respected not only in Pittsburg, but in the region and at the state level.”

Commissioner Rudy Draper said he was “extremely excited about the energy and attitude of Benson,” and added that he had “full faith” that Benson would do the job well.

Benson said the chamber is being reorganized to allow him to make economic development his primary focus. He said he would plan town hall meetings to update the public and make his work as transparent as possible.

But Mayor John Ketterman said he had received between 40 and 50 telephone calls from residents opposed to the arrangement. “There’s a lot of animosity toward the chamber in general in town,” he said. He said some residents believe that Benson might favor members of the chamber when pursuing economic development opportunities.

Benson said working with nonmembers of the chamber would not be an issue.

“As far as the issue of a conflict of interest, to be honest, that conflict would exist whether we were doing economic development or whether the city were, and a good example would be a grocery store,” Benson said. “If there were a grocery store looking to move into our community, yes our local grocery stores are members of the chamber. But at the same time, those grocery stores could also, if there was a city-funded economic development director, say, ‘We’re tax-paying businesses here, and you’re using our taxpayer money to hire an economic development director to go out and recruit competition against us.’

“The businesses we work with on a daily basis know that with economic development, a rising tide lifts all boats. I have been in the chamber field for 15 years. A little over half that was with chambers that also did economic development, and it has never been a concern as far as a chamber favoring members over nonmembers in terms of economic development.”

Hall noted that the Economic Development Advisory Committee still would be responsible for making recommendations regarding the use of the city’s Revolving Loan Fund.

Ketterman said the commission should postpone the decision until next month to allow for public input.

The rest of the commissioners and Hall disagreed, noting that personnel decisions are not made with public input.

Pittsburg businessman Dave Holloman, who spoke during the meeting, said he represented “30 or 40” Pittsburg residents adamantly opposed to the chamber being responsible for the city’s economic development. He, too, requested that the commission postpone the decision.

“It has nothing to do with Blake personally,” said Holloman, who last year opened Sapience Corp. “We need jobs. It’s the single most important issue for this community and for you guys to consider. It really needs more focus, more attention than you’re giving it.”

He suggested that the commission look into contracting with companies that specialize in economic development.

Under state law, municipalities must put the purchase of products out for bids, but not services.

Holloman said the public perception is that Benson wouldn’t be held to any performance standards because he is a known entity, and that the “good old boy network” was at play. He said the arrangement was a ploy to save money.

Commissioner Michael Gray said none of the statements was true. He advocated making the arrangement with the chamber as transparent as possible for the duration of the contract, including involving numerous groups in goal setting and performance evaluation.

“I take a little bit of offense that you would imply that us as commissioners wouldn’t be looking out for the best interests of the city,” Gray said.

Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan said saving money on the position “never once came up” in the three months that city personnel and commissioners had discussed the idea in closed sessions.

“We talked about going this direction because this is a program that has worked successfully for other places,” he said.

The commission ultimately approved the agreement by a vote of 4-1, with Ketterman the lone dissenting vote. The agreement is effective immediately and will last until Dec. 31, 2013. It may be renewed each year or terminated at the discretion of the commission, as early as 30 days from its start date if the commission determines that the chamber is not fulfilling its obligation or is engaging in conduct detrimental to the city.

Benson must provide reports to Hall monthly and to the commission every other month.


MARK TURNBULL, who had been Pittsburg’s economic development director, retired earlier this month after working 18 years for the city.

Text Only
Local News
  • r072814dogbike.jpg Cross-country trip promotes animal adoption

    Where’s Bixby? Not the town in Oklahoma, but the dog on the back of a bicycle ridden by Mike Minnick. On Monday, the two were in Joplin, one stop on a cross-country bike trip to promote the adoption of dogs and cats from local shelters.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4.3 magnitude quake reported in northern Oklahoma

    The U.S. Geological Survey says an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.3 struck northern Oklahoma on Monday night.

    July 29, 2014

  • Update: 4 workers injured in SE Kansas oil refinery fire

    A Texas company says four workers at a southeast Kansas oil refinery were burned in an early morning fire.

    July 29, 2014

  • Seneca man draws concurrent term in sexual abuse case

    A 39-year-old man who sexually abused a girl over a four-year period in both Joplin and Seneca received a 15-year sentence Monday in Newton County that will run concurrently with a term he received earlier this year in Jasper County.

    July 28, 2014

  • Judge lifts seal on records in Parsons quadruple slaying

    A judge has rescinded his order sealing court records in the case of David Bennett Jr., who is accused of killing a Parsons woman and her three children.

    July 28, 2014

  • Defendant who pulled knife on ER doctor sent for treatment

    A man accused of pulling a knife on a Freeman Hospital West emergency room doctor pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Monday and was sentenced to the state prison system’s Institutional Treatment Center.

    July 28, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to build second local Neighborhood Market

    A second Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market store is planned for Joplin. The company has filed an application with the city to rezone nearly six acres of land on the west side of town in the tornado zone to build a new Neighborhood Market and gas station.

    July 28, 2014

  • r072814mailcar.jpg VIDEO: Train mail car trailered on Joplin's Main Street to Redings Mill

    With a police escort leading the way Monday, postal car No. 34 breezed through downtown Joplin en route to its new home in Redings Mill, where it was greeted by a welcome party of local residents and railroad enthusiasts.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • Anti-landfill group seeks grand jury probe

    As more than 200 people filed into Riverton High School on Sunday to attend an anti-landfill group meeting, many stopped to sign a petition asking the Cherokee County District Court to summon a grand jury to investigate how land was acquired by the city of Galena for a proposed landfill.

    July 27, 2014

  • 072814_jd anderson.jpg VIDEO: Noel strongman advances on talent show

    The past week has been busier than normal for Noel resident J.D. Anderson. Members of the production crew for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” told him they have shot more footage of him than of other contestants for the next episode. “They said I have the busiest schedule of anyone this week,” Anderson told the Globe in a phone interview Friday. “There’s so many fun things you can do with B-roll as a strongman.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read


Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that electronic devices and communications are protected from searches and seizure without a warrant, do you think Missouri needs Amendment 9 added to its constitution?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter