FCDC eyes growth year in 2018
(Shared with permission of the Ottawa Herald)
By Greg Mast
The Franklin County Development Council views 2018 as an opportunity to expand on 2017 accomplishments.
James Oltman, FCDC executive director, said 2018 will be a huge year for growth in the business community.
“We are really proud of the work we did in 2017,” he said. “We think it is going to lead to greater things in 2018. We are ready to come out of the gate running in 2018 and keep that momentum going, build on it. There was a lot of foundational aspects to 2017. There were a lot of successes that we’ve seen come to fruition.”
Part of those accomplishments were formalizing a four-year marketing strategy for Proximity Park, a new 300-plus acre business park located on the southern edge of Ottawa, branding the new park, redesigning the FCDC website, putting together a workforce development program and business retention and expansion strategy.
“It was a busy year doing all that,” Oltman said. “It was a productive year. We really laid the foundation of what we needed to do going forward.
“In 2018, you will see less of the foundational pieces. You are going to see increased focus on getting out and telling our story and getting in the room with the people we need to talk to. We are going to see a little more growth.”
Oltman said creating a marketing strategy for Proximity Park was a huge step in 2017.
“It was a priority we did not take lightly,” he said. “We contracted with Bartlett & West to help us put together a strategy. We knew with this type of project, success does not happen overnight. It was going to be a long, methodical, deliberate process. You have to lay down that foundation, plant those seeds. It is like gardening. You have to do the behind the scenes work before you actually see that seed sprout into something and grow.”
One of the main pieces of the first year was to brand the park and institute an official name, Oltman said.
“Branding that park would be critical in how we told our story,” he said. “Telling our story was critical in figuring out how we needed to brand the park.”
Oltman said the name — Proximity Park — turned out to the perfect name.
“That name really communicated what we were trying to say not only with the name itself, but our community,” he said. “We are part of the Kansas City metro. That is how we sell ourselves.”
Part of the selling process was creating a new FCDC website and making appearances at conferences and trade shows. Oltman said a lot of time was spent spreading the word of what Franklin County has to offer.
“You are never going to fill that [business] park by sitting behind a desk and sending emails,” Oltman said. “You have to build that connection. You are building relationships with site selectors that may be not have a project now. It is all about continuing and fostering that relationship.”
Oltman made 45 contacts representing 16 states and four countries in 2017. He said 2018 is going to be a huge year for Proximity Park.
“You are going to see more of that infrastructure going in, more utilities and roads are going to start to get upgraded,” he said.
WORK FRANKLIN COUNTY
Oltman guided a panel of business associates to develop a workforce program.
“For Proximity Park to be successful, we knew we would have to address workforce,” Oltman said. “That was a 13-month process to come up with that program. “In the last two months of 2017, we were able to secure $38,000 in private investment from the business community to help fund the Work Franklin County program for the first three years. The business community knows how important that initiative is and how important it is to the long-term success of our community. Not just with Proximity Park, but their own successes too. We are starting implementation of that now.”
The program is designed to improve job development skills for potential employees. The six spokes of the workforce development plan are: RISE program, professional development boot camp, ACES program, senior day on the job, elevate Franklin County and customized workforce training programs.
Oltman said another success was finalizing a business retention and expansion strategy.
“We have a huge responsibility to our current members and current industries within the community to help them become successful,” he said. “We want to see our existing industries grow and expand.”
Business attraction will be a major focus in 2018, Oltman said. He said securing the Holiday Inn & Suites, near the intersection of 23rd Street and U.S. 59, was a huge success in 2017.
“That was not an easy project to get across the finish line,” Oltman said. “It took quite a bit of time. That project alone will include $9 million in capital investment in the community.”
He said the school bond project, the new hospital emergency department, expansion of Kalmar and the building of the hotel gives Ottawa momentum heading into 2018.
“Development breeds development,” Oltman said. “We have another project associated with [the hotel] we are hoping we can get across the finish line and be able to announce soon. You have the new housing project the city has been working on. There is a lot going on right now.”