Hardin County is doing the right things to attract business and industry according to an economic development expert.
Christine Schmenk, of the Brickler and Eckler law firm of Columbus, told a group of about 20 area leaders that Hardin County has developed a “pretty impressive” five-year plan.
She made the comments during an economic and community development briefing hosted by the Chamber and Business Alliance on Wednesday night.
“You have to have a strategy in place and you have a pretty impressive five-year plan,” said Schmenk, whose past experience includes serving as the director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, vice president for external affairs for the Scotts Miracle-Gro company, mayor of Marysville and is on the Ohio Northern University board of trustees.
“That is a really good thing because you are thinking about where you want to be in five years and are putting a plan together to get there,” she added.
Schmenk noted it’s good to have strong partnerships in place between public and private entities.
“Get the public involved and have businesses involved because they are the ones that are paying your employees in the town or county and you need those kind of teams working together for a comprehensive business development program,” Schmenk said.
“It’s good to always be looking at the plan and what should be done and when it should be done and to update it regularly. It’s very important to know where you’re going. As far as a structure you have there is no real right or wrong.
“Your plan from an outsider looking in, looks like you have all the important decision-makers all working together, which is wonderful. We don’t see that always. I’ve known communities where they maybe didn’t get a new project or new company because when that community called they didn’t know who to talk to and couldn’t tell who the decision-makers were. .. It’s good to have that organization and it seems like you do.”
Schmenk, who also detailed the different entities that can be put together to attract business such as port authorities, community improvement corporations, community reinvestment areas and enterprise zones, said it’s good to have a unified plan before it is needed.
“It’s good to really come together before the pressure is on,” she said.
“To think about if a big business approaches us, what would we want to do, That’s something I would encourage.”
“It’s always good to think ahead of time about would we offer any kind of incentive or programs and if we offer what would be our criteria. … when you have that it helps you make faster decisions because you’ve already got people on board like school superintendents, the commissioners or board of trustees,” she said.
“It also gives you the ability to say no if a business doesn’t meet the criteria.”
The importance of taking care of existing business and industry also was stressed by Schmenk. “It may not be as sexy or cool as getting new business into a community, but statistics show most jobs come from the businesses that you currently have,” she said.
“It’s always good to reach out and see what kind of help they may need.”
“Once you have the structure and tools, I encourage you to have a system in place and stay current on what is happening,” Schmenk said.
Also during the forum Gregory Lestini gave an update on what is going on in the state legislature.