Franklin County Development Council’s marketing skills will be soon put to the test. The organization is in a phase of marketing Franklin County to prospective business executives.
The FCDC in January formed a new strategic plan that includes marketing and growing the work force development plan.
“The last one was two or three years old,” Lisa Johnson, FCDC board member and past president, said about why they developed a new plan. “We had accomplished most of our goals [of the last one]. It is an exciting time for the organization and membership to look where we are at now. We have a lot of opportunities and exciting things happening.”
Josh Walker, FCDC president, said a main goal of the organization is to give opportunities for businesses to move to Franklin County.
“The goal is to expand job opportunities within this community along with quality of life,” Walker said. “As we have visited with folks outside of the community — those within the industry of other communities similar in size — a lot of things we have here are enviable. When you are here every day, you lose sight of all the stuff that is positive and getting accomplished. Then you talk to folks that have far greater issues than we do. We are doing the right things and positioning ourselves to see growth.”
Johnson said FCDC will be a leader in championing the success stories of the area. She said FCDC partners such as the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, Ottawa Main Street Association, Franklin County tourism and existing businesses also play a role in selling the community.
“We have a lot of things that are enviable,” she said. “If you look around at the developments of Ottawa University, the high school and the bond issue and the hospital, the community is a progressive community. That is an attribute that we can showcase when people come here.”
Walker said Franklin County may be smaller than the surrounding areas in the Kansas City metro, but offers a different perspective and climate. He said the cooperation between the city and county commissions to get Proximity Park off the ground is something that does not exist in other communities.
“That is a huge asset here,” Walker said. “When we talk to folks — whether it’s people that we want to partner with on initiatives or potential businesses that come here, site selectors — that is what we hear that the partnerships are strong. Not only city-county but among the education partners here. When we talk work force development, they have been a huge player in bringing that forward and growing that program. There is a lot of things we have going for us.”
Work force development is a huge factor in economic development.
“We need to have available a skilled and available work force,” Johnson said. “We do have a work force available platform that we have developed over the past three years. To continue to work on that and work with our partners to make sure we are meeting their needs.”
Walker said prospective business partners are impressed how the FCDC is attempting to equip the work force with skills that meet their expectations.
“That work force development piece that is a big deal in bringing potential employees together with employers,” Walker said. “Opening some doors so that both sides can see opportunities exist that they have not utilized prior.
“What they see is we are actively working on improving our work force. The issues we have here in that arena are not unique. It exists everywhere. It is good thing we have recognized it and being proactive about it and trying to improve it.”
Marketing Proximity Park is only a piece of the growth plan. Johnson said the organization wants to lend a helping hand to existing businesses.
“We need to continue to support their needs,” she said. “We need to work with the city and county on a marketing plan to bring people in and continue to grow that for an economic driver for the community.”
Walker said the FCDC has been marketing the new business park for awhile and is looking at the next step.
“What do we do to expand our profile because when we respond to these requests about available land, it is nice when we get some feedback,” Walker said. “There has been a couple [of occasions] in the past year we have gone against much larger communities and we have held our own. That is encouraging that we are doing the right things. We have something that is attractive here.”
Part of that is showing off the whole county.
“We have seen Wellsville is well positioned as well within the county,” Walker said. “They have seen some growth and more that is coming up. Every community has an opportunity to expand and grow. We have seen some in Richmond as well.”
Walker said economic development is not something that happens quickly and not without a foundation.
“As an industry, this is notoriously slow moving,” he said. “People can drive down the highway and see these developments going up — they see that in the moment and don’t realize that it might be three, four or five years or even longer in the making.”
Walker said he could not predict what may happen in the next decade.
“It depends on what kind of business that you are recruiting and what they are looking for,” he said. “Whether it be size, work force, industry they work in, or if there is sister company they want to be in proximity to. There is no good way for us to say ‘this is where it will happen.’”