Erie County Commissioners think they'll be able to fund Greater Erie Marketing this year, and that's good. When the important thing, in this time of competing for scarce opportunities, is the ability to sell yourself, the private marketing arm of the county's economic development effort moves to a very public center stage.
After all, one must plan to get the bricks and mortar before one can plan to stack them.
And that's the key word: Plan.
The county needs to know GEM has a plan, and what sort of plan it is, before it releases money. Though cooperation is the watchword in many area projects that are finally moving ahead, we're still in competition with surrounding areas to get more projects -- and any other strategy we might have depends on the marketing strategy.
Secondly, that's public money the commissioners are spending. GEM has for years insisted that because it's private -- funded by an assortment of county businesses and a bit of local government money -- the books can remain closed to the rest of us.
But the money that would go to GEM is money out of taxpayers' pockets, and taxpayers are entitled to know whether GEM knows what it's doing with that money.
One need only look down the street from GEM's offices, to the State Theatre -- where a new board and new officers of another private organization are deep into the arduous task of rebuilding trust that was blown to bits by an earlier board's demand for tax money without accountability. The taxpayers' answer was unmistakable.
So GEM, in our view, ought to have a choice: Public details about what it plans to do with the extra taxpayer money it wants from the county, or finding another way to pay for itself.