MASSENA — Members of the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena's board of directors are demanding more accountability in its operations.
Those demands follow months of criticism from Mayor James F. Hidy and Supervisor Joseph D. Gray that the BDC has failed to make its mission clear and has not done enough to bring jobs to Massena.
To dispel such criticism, a series of internal reforms is under way within the BDC. Board member Ronald H. Bacon, for example, wants the BDC to provide more detail of its progress and accomplishments.
The BDC's executive director, Jason A. Clark, issues a monthly report listing the economic development agency's ongoing projects and business leads generated. The May report, for example, lists "two Canadian leads, two small retail leads and two local Massena expansion leads" as some of the business the BDC is pursuing.
But the progress report from the previous month also listed the same items. It is not clear from the report how the BDC worked each month to maintain those leads.
The BDC also had two "agricultural leads" in April, but five in May. It is unclear from the report whether the five are all new or include the two from the previous month.
That vagueness needs to change, Mr. Bacon said.
"I want to see more documentation regarding our proactive efforts to attract business to Massena," Mr. Bacon said. "In our lead generation reports, it's difficult to assess the amount of effort and the amount of contacts and the amount of interest ... It could just be changing the reporting format or increasing our effort."
Doing so could fend off some of the recent criticism the BDC has sustained, Mr. Bacon said. Mr. Hidy, for example, wanted to cut off village funding to the BDC because he was "through spending money for an agency that has done nothing for the community."
"We seem to get a lot of criticism and comment from certain people about our efforts in this regard," Mr. Bacon said.
Any additional details could be an improvement over the current monthly report, he said.
"I'd like to at least be able to say, 'We've made x contacts or y discussions or had z warm leads that we're still working, or we did 1,000 mailings and followed up on 100 in the last six months,'" he said. "I'm seeing the same things on here every month, the same names."
BDC board member Mark Reagan agreed and said new progress reports could help to move the BDC forward.
"You've got some ongoing cases that you're working on and that's good, and they're all at different levels, but you also want to be trying to start and develop new ones as well," he said.
Mr. Clark said he would work on modifying the monthly reports for the next meeting.
"We can split them out a little bit more by category," Mr. Clark said. "That can be done without too many problems."
But BDC board President Daniel S. Pease warned against giving away too much detail in reports. A breach of confidentiality in a business lead can threaten a project, he said.
"I would hesitate at identifying even the type of business activity the contacts are engaged in," Mr. Pease said. "We tried in the past to be a little more descriptive. It just doesn't work ... I think we would rather err on the side of confidentiality."
Village Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld and Councilman Charles A Raiti, who were at the meeting, said they agreed with Mr. Bacon's desire to include more detail.
More measurable progress would help the village board make better decisions at budget time, Mr. Ahlfeld said.
"Everyone can look at the same sheet of paper and say, 'This is what you did,'" Mr. Ahlfeld said.
Other efforts to increase accountability within the BDC also are under way. Board members Larry Ralston, Jack R. Sauve Jr. and Mr. Bacon will spend the next three months hammering out a series of defined goals for the BDC. The agency's board unanimously approved a series of internal controls to better regulate its finances last Thursday.