STEUBENVILLE - A more active committee structure to get private business investors and government representatives involved in economic development is a key feature of a three-year strategic plan for Progress Alliance unveiled Tuesday.
The Community Improvement Corp., which oversees the operation of the public-private economic development organization, held its first meeting of 2011 at the Schiappa Branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. Robert Filby and Karen D'Anniballe, principals of the Circinus Group consulting firm, presented an executive summary of the 60-page plan.
The plan was formulated through surveys of CIC board members and non-members as well as focus groups. A more intense focus on mission will drive the organization, Filby and D'Anniballe explained as the mission and vision statements were read.
Robert Filby interview
"If it's not related to new prospects, business retention or expansion, then we're not going to do it," said CIC president Ken Perkins.
Filby said, "It's a pretty aggressive plan, but this is your plan." He noted the elements were developed out of conversations, surveys and the focus groups.
D'Anniballe said the sharper focus doesn't mean that Executive Director Ed Looman will be asked to disengage from many activities but that strategic partners will be used. Perkins said the change will be a matter of getting the right people on the right committees to match their talents and capabilities.
Looman recounted successes by Progress Alliance during its 15 years of existence, including the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, the county industrial park, helping Toronto obtain a grant to put the former Hancock Manufacturing plant back into service for another business and working with the county to help Buckeye Power obtain $75 million in Economic Recovery Zone bonds in 2010.
He said, "It's a big day for this organization. We have a great track record, but we have not done a good job of making ourselves strong internally. I have wanted a plan since I came here in May 2008. We've been good at bringing folks in - God bless this county for the support - but once we have them here, we don't have anything for them to do. Now, we're saying, 'We need you.'"
Among the goals set is greater involvement by the local Realtor community. Though the plan calls for a Realtor to be on the board by the third quarter of 2012, Perkins said there already is work done with gaining better communications and cooperation with local Realtors. He noted the $2,000 annual investment for a seat on the CIC board could be tough for Realtors for now because of the economy, so involvement is being courted now, with membership to come later.
Ed Florak, CIC treasurer, said the measurement of success based on jobs retained or created has to be done with care because ultimately, job success is left up to the individual businesses.
D'Anniballe said that will be helped by another goal in the plan, which is increased visits and annual surveys of employers in the county.
The plan also called for Progress Alliance to revisit a study of employer clusters done by Ohio University that pointed toward businesses that might find success by locating in the county near related industries.
A re-branding of Progress Alliance also is called for in the second quarter this year to reflect the sharper focus and mission. Marketing, D'Anniballe said, will be tailored to better serve business site selectors and external clients.
Getting a countywide port authority up and running is a goal for the second quarter of 2011.
Alan Hall, director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, thanked the CIC board for its support of the library levy campaign in the general election. He said the levy passed with the highest percentage among county library system levies on the November ballet. He said there were 37 levies statewide and 30, including Jefferson County, passed.
"This library now belongs to the citizens of Jefferson County in a whole new way," he said.
The CIC's next meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 at Eastern Gateway Community College.
(Giannamore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)