Gouge to study business development


County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge expects to graduate from the University of Oklahoma's Economic Development Institute next week armed with a thesis outlining a plan for business growth in Carroll.

Mrs. Gouge will leave Saturday for Norman, Okla., to attend a week of courses taught by business and industrial specialists on subjects such as conflict management and trends of the 1990s. Taxpayers have picked up about $3,000 of the cost of her attendance. This is her final year in the three-year program.

The county will pay $550 for registration, while Mrs. Gouge says she will pay $800 or so herself for expenses such as transportation and lodging.

In each of the previous two years she attended the program, the county picked up a tab of about $1,200.

Mrs. Gouge said she will pay most costs this year partly because taxpayers already paid about $800 for her trip to the National Association of Counties meeting in Minneapolis.

"I felt like I needed to cut my expenses back," she said. "I'm sure a lot of people will see this as frivolous, but I don't see it as frivolous. It's very important to the county. The more I know [about economic development], the better I can be as commissioner."

The trip is included in the commissioners' $17,500 travel budget.

Mrs. Gouge has been the strongest proponent of economic development on the last two boards of commissioners.

Her thesis outlines economic and cultural conditions in Carroll, describes current government activities, analyzes economic development programs in other jurisdictions, discusses educational and training options and makes recommendations.

"I wanted to learn all I could about economic development -- what people are doing, why and how they are successful," she said.

"This is a positive for the Economic Development Commission and businesses. It shows as commissioner, I'm interested enough to take the time to do it."

She says one idea she learned from attending the seminar was a "fast-track" system which Carroll implemented several years ago, allowing plans for a high-priority business or industrial prospect to receive a more intensive, quicker county review.

Among her thesis recommendations are creating a public-private economic development partnership to promote the county, and conducting a detailed study of the county's labor force and attracting industry to match.

She said she's not sure if she'll take the test required to become a certified industrial developer.

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