More than 20 candidates from around the country have applied to be Belfast’s economic development director, according to City Manager Joe Slocum, who said he did not have a definite count but had noticed that the applications had come from a number of other states.

The City Council first resolved to hire an economic development director in October 2009, approving up to $100,000 from surplus to cover all expenses related to the position during the coming fiscal year, 2010-11. Slocum described this as a “working budget,” and said his goal is to bring someone in for less, but the final figure could exceed $100,000, depending upon the applicant. Having never hired an economic development director, Slocum said he lacks the experience upon which to base an estimate.

“If I hire a police chief, I know what I need,” he said. “If I’m hiring an economic development director, I think I know what I need.”

Beginning July 1, 2011, the position would appear as a line in the city budget.

An advisory committee composed of Slocum, City Planner Wayne Marshall and City Councilor Mike Hurley will review the applications. Additionally, Slocum said he plans to ask a city manager from another municipality to advise the committee. Slocum said he has four managers in mind, each having dealt more than once with economic development directors, but he declined to say who he would be asking.

Slocum said he expects the selection process to take at least six to eight weeks, at the end of which time, he will return to the Council with a single recommendation.

“No one should expect that our local economy will shift drastically in the first year,” he said. “…It’s slow and steady effort against everything that hurts business, and slow and steady assistance to everything that helps business, and that’s how you grow the economy.”

Slocum anticipated the city would benefit more from having a dedicated economic development director than it has from relying on contributions to the Knox/Waldo Regional Economic Development Council and Eastern Maine Development Corporation, both of which can offer only part-time assistance to Belfast.

“This is the first time someone’s going to come in and say, ‘Today my job is here. Tomorrow my job is here,'” he said.

The new hire would be responsible for giving professional economic advice, and would “serve as an advocate for economic development in line with the Belfast Comprehensive Plan,” according to the job description for the position, drafted by Slocum. The Council adopted the land use portion of the updated plan in October 2009. The Belfast Comprehensive Plan Committee is currently working on other aspects of the plan.

Also included in the job description is a requirement to promote the Belfast Business Park and act as a liaison between the city and other organizations and agencies, including EMDC, KWRED, and state and federal agencies.

The director would make an inventory of available business and residential properties, prepare grant applications, formulate a marketing plan and business attraction strategies for Belfast, monitor legislation related to economic development, aid in contract negotiations, attend professional development workshops and otherwise “keep abreast of trends and developments in the field of economic development,” as stipulated in the job description.

However, given the state of the economy, Slocum said, holding onto the businesses that are already here might represent a victory in the coming year.

“Do you measure success by saving something you could have lost?” he said. “I would.”