We support the goals of the Effingham Regional Growth Alliance, and consider it a boon to our region. But on behalf of City of Effingham taxpayers, we echo the caution expressed by Commissioner Merv Gillenwater during a recent discussion about whether the city should contribute $100,000 to the organization.

Gillenwater notes that a provision of the ordinance passed by the council when the city joined the Alliance provided that all funds contributed by the city should be spent “within the corporate limits of the City of Effingham.” Gillenwater isn’t sure that requirement is being met.

He’d be in a better position to know than we are. In any case, this should be clarified before the city moves forward with its next contribution.

Gillenwater also criticized Axis, a shared workspace in downtown Effingham that the Alliance helped create. It closed in November because not enough businesses rented space there.

“It panned out to be a complete flop,” Gillenwater said. “It did not work. That money went down the drain, basically.”

We don’t agree with that assessment. Some good ideas take time to gain a footing. And we’ll point out that a pandemic is not the best time to test the merits of a “shared” workspace.

At first blush, the concept seemed a good one to us. It’s unfair to call it a “flop,” even if it failed to quickly become a success.

As the Effingham Daily News reported in 2019, the City of Effingham and the Alliance each contributed $15,000 to the project. Other contributions came from Agracel, Mette Cabinet Corner, John Boos & Co., Bob’s Discount Home Improvement Center, EJ Water, Consolidated Communication, Imagine This! Marketing Group, and building owners Gehl and Tara Higgs.

Colorful sofas, casual chairs, tables and a bar workspace peppered the interior, spurred by the concept known as a business incubator.

We applaud the “out of the box” design, with lots of color and palm tree prints on the wall. Its planners intended that when people came to work, creativity would flow.

These challenging times demand even more creative thinking to spur business and development, and to forge a path forward.

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