Background on Project Firefly by Mike Hillman

This year I was surprised when I heard that Project Firefly was causing quite a stir, and like many people around the area, I started to follow what was happening with Project Firefly. Project Firefly is nothing new. Firefly started flitting around the EADA, Ely Area Development Agency, a few years ago when Pat Henderson, the second EADA Director after Bill Henning, brought Project Firefly to the attention of Ely City Council. I was serving at the time on The Ely City Council, and I remember listening as Pat told us that she was going to apply for grant funding in order to begin an economic development idea that she named Project Firefly. (Just one, one of the main, or the only project of the EADA)

It sounded like a fine idea to an area hungry for economic development, and when we found out that the costs of the project would be covered with grant money coming from either Iron Range Resources or the Blandin Foundation; The Ely City Council was unanimous in their support of the concept of Project Firefly. When questioned about the nature of Project Firefly Pat Henderson did reveal that Firefly was founded on the idea that there were many small entrepreneurs around the area who had some wonderful ideas and potential inventions that needed help to develop and take to commercialzation. Project Firefly would act as an incubator of sorts that would give aid to these potential Edisons whose projects could help rejuvenate the area’s economic base. It sounded like a wonderful idea that was right in line with what the area Joint Powers Board had in mind when the EADA was created many years ago (when ?).

The Joint Powers Board is the agency that supervises the activity of and sets the agenda for the EADA. The board is made up of the various local governments who all own stock in the EADA. The Joint Powers Board is made up of voting and non voting members from around the area. The thought was simple: All area governments and a number of institutions like our schools, hospital, and area businesses have an interest in economic development, and we all should have a say in what happens with the EADA. One for all and all for one. We take one member from the Ely City Council, Winton, Town of Morse, School Board, and any other area government you can get to join in helping to fund the EADA. If you are a paying member on the Joint Powers Board you get a vote, and if you are not a paying member you get to put in your comments and ideas, but you don’t get a vote.

The Joint Powers Board evolved from the idea that if you could bring these different governments together in one place that it would lead towards better cooperation and understanding between them. It was an experiment worth trying and this year when The Ely City Council decided to pull their funding for the EADA it was a sure sign that something went wrong with the Joint Powers Experiment.

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