Spotlighting Economic Developers in May
Wednesday, May 01, 2019
May 6-11 is International Economic Development Week (EDW). The International Economic Development Council created this week in 2016 to help raise awareness. Since economic developers often operate behind the scenes, we’re often misunderstood.
It’s a time to reflect on the economic development activities that contribute to building vital and sustainable communities. It’s a chance to recognize the local leaders and collaborative partners that work to recruit investors, develop businesses and create jobs. These efforts aren’t just about enhancing the tax base, they improve the quality of life in local communities.
The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) provides an array of important services aimed at building the local economy and nurturing area businesses. Here are some recent successes and ways OEDC and our partners are working to improve the community:
OEDC is a valuable resource for new and developing companies. From advising on basic topics like business planning to helping find a location and identify financing, these services are integral to helping early-stage businesses succeed.
Business attraction, retention and expansion
Economic developers have long been tasked with recruiting investors and companies to our regions in order to expand the tax base and create new jobs. Achieving site certification status for the Helgerson Flats industrial site was a major victory for Ottumwa in terms of business attraction. It makes the town much more competitive for attracting our target industries.
OEDC staff were instrumental in the redevelopment of the former Kmart and Target building. We worked with one developer on three different site proposals for the Target building, and along with City of Ottumwa, were able to secure Hobby Lobby in the former Kmart.
Beyond business attraction, promoting the success and growth of existing businesses is also crucial to sustaining an economy. OEDC staff negotiated Plastipak’s purchase of its current facility and a $22 million expansion of the facility. This resulted in four manufacturing lines being transferred from Champaign, Illinois and 45 new Ottumwa employees.
OEDC assisted C&C Manufacturing in their expansion as well. The business moved into the former Al Jon location at the airport campus. Ottumwa was able to generate $500,000 in incentives in less than 3 months (not including state assistance) for the 56-year-old business, which has an economic impact of over $20 million. Based on these efforts, OEDC won a 2018 Business Retention and Expansion Award from the Professional Developers of Iowa.
Marketing and promotion
Economic developers are tasked with marketing our cities and regions to prospective investors and residents. We are trained to identify community assets and business advantages in order to promote them to the world.
Marketing includes social media and email newsletters. OEDC’s social media following has increased by nearly 230 percent since 2014. According to MailChimp analytics, OEDC’s “O’Town O’ptomist” has an open rate that’s 17.34 percent above the average for all industries.
Promotion also happens in person. Economic Development Director Sharon Stroh serves as an ambassador for the community on issues related to development. She works to elevate Ottumwa’s profile by serving on the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Taskforce. She also sits on the Stakeholder Council for Cradle, College, Career (C3) and serves as the chair of Opportunity Squared Regional Development board and secretary of the Indian Hills Regional Development board.
Companies today face a challenge in finding skilled employees. That’s why economic developers work closely with local partners to help build and maintain a strong local workforce.
OEDC has been awarded more than $799,400 in grant financing for programmatic expenditures, including laborshed studies, a target industry analysis, talent attraction initiatives, site certification, economic development outreach and more.
Economic developers are knowledgeable about business financing and incentives. We can help new and existing businesses identify the capital and incentives they need to start up and grow.