In late 2009, we pursued the opportunity to assist two cities with their economic development efforts.
City A (who will remain anonymous) was looking to improve on its general position as a bedroom community to other larger cities and it wished to attract both retail and non-retail development.
City B (Webster City, Iowa) was faced with the announced closure of two Electrolux plants that manufactured washers and dryers, as well as central vacuum systems. They were staring down the loss of 1,000 jobs in a community of 8,000 people.
Let’s compare the outcomes.
City A selected a very large lead consultant firm primarily versed in architecture. They conducted a year long process and used four additional consulting and engineering firms to round out the expertise of the consulting team. Over the course of a year they held open community meetings, identified sub areas for additional planning and produced two very generalized documents with renderings of what future development may look like. Since completing this plan, the city completed several annexations and has initiated efforts to complete planning for each of the subareas.
City B hired our firm. We ’embedded’ ourselves within the community during the initial plan review and recognized that the city had to act quickly. We interviewed key stakeholders; conducted a review of the city’s codes, fees and utility rates; and completed a ‘buildable land’ and key asset mapping assessment that were all presented to the City Council in four months. After the presentation of our findings, we worked with the city and stakeholders over the next 30 days to develop an action plan, which the council adopted by resolution as its “Economic Development and Recovery Action Plan.” It directed all city departments and resources to prioritize implementation of the plan.
We continued in our role as the consultant for City B and led implementation of the action plan, which included our assisting the city in evaluating, hiring and overseeing other consultants for select elements of the action plan (e.g. workforce assessment; development of a brand and a marketing plan).
The action plan was comprehensive and kept the city ahead of the curve in surviving and recovering from the closure of Electrolux. Some of the highlights of what the plan accomplished include 100 Electrolux jobs were retained, incentives provided that encouraged new retail growth, multiple electric rates consolidated to simplify billing and encourage expansion of the remaining manufacturing base, and code amendments implemented to support home based businesses and an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
We think its clear which city got the better deal and the better result.
Is your community ready to take action? Contact us today and let’s talk about what we can do for you.