The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022

Is Van Wert ready for ED?

The question remains, are we REALLY ready for the next big prospect to visit Van Wert? While the Van Wert community has very attractive physical assets to those who live, play and work here, do we have what it takes to attract a major corporation in the target industries of automotive, food processing, agriculture and advanced manufacturing, where we have experience and a capable workforce?

Major corporations who invest millions of dollars in a community don’t take the decision lightly and rank each proposed site according to several key factors driving their decision.

Van Wert is certainly not alone when it comes trying to attract new companies to a community.  There are many communities among us who ALL believe they have the best physical assets and quality of life a corporation would want for their next new investment.  But, if the truth be known, many communities ARE great places to live and claim they have available workforce, quality school systems, a business friendly environment and many other unique and attractive things to offer.  So, how does Van Wert compete if other communities hold claim to comparable assets?

First of all, we are UNIQUE! There are very few communities that have a 1,600-acre industrial mega site, but is that enough? According to Carol Johnson, the founder of Continuous Dialog, a professional consulting company specializing in economic and community development sales training and who recently delivered a two-day sales training class to statewide economic development practitioners, stated, “Promises, Promises … communities all say the same things and what site consultants and prospects fear the most will happen when they visit a potential site is the locals will talk too much and waste their time!”

In an effort to be prepared, according to Johnson, “the local team needs to understand that every facet of your location is quantitatively ranked and each industry, each project will rank you differently.” In other words, the local team needs to not only say what we have to offer the prospect but we must prove it and be creditable. Corporations are obsessed with “risk avoidance” and as a local team, we must remove any mystery or risk the prospect may perceive the community as having.

Communities that are winning projects are preparing a winning team consisting of the local experts in the areas of utilities (gas, electric, water and wastewater), industry, infrastructure, workforce, taxation and incentives.  What builds site selection consultants and prospects’ confidence in the local team is the ability the team has in delivering a quantitative and creditable statement about their areas of expertise with proof and the impact it will have on the proposed project. Yet, this is still often not enough since prospects also want you to be experienced or if you have no experience have a process in place to shorten startup timelines, ensure project confidentiality, expedite solutions and overcome obstacles before and after the selection.

With the JRS certification for the mega site close in sight, it will be only a matter of time before we get the opportunity to showcase our site and our community. With a priority, first, on understanding what we have and proving what we have is a requirement of the prospect; second, understanding prospects have key drivers to their decision that we must know, understand and confirm; and, lastly, understanding that prospects make final decisions based on spending money to making money the fastest, minimizing and overcoming perceived and real risks and, finally, the money, where improving the prospect’s credit worthiness is a priority.

Van Wert, yes, we can be ready!

–CINDY LEIS, OSU Extension community development director

POSTED: 08/30/14 at 6:59 am. FILED UNDER: Opinions