Econ 101

November 16, 2012


government, Trends

Thayr Richey (left) and Jennifer Laurent (right) speaking at the Econ 101 presentation at Swan Lake

Thursday afternoon Marshall County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) along with Indiana Michigan Power Agency (IMPA) hosted elected officials from Marshall County and the Marshall County municipalities.   The venue was the Swan Lake Resort Conference Center.  The speaker was Thayr Richey of Strategic Development Group (SDG).Twenty-five county and municipal representatives along with most of the MCEDC board attended the presentation;  a pretty good cross section of the county including Bill Githens, Ralph Winters, Barbara Winters, Jim Falkner, Margaret Dehne and Dave Schoeff representing Culver.  Hopefully everyone took something back to their respective communities to share and act on.  Mr. Richey spoke of Economic Development as a team sport.  It’s not something that can be done by a single person.  The communities need to pull together to make something happen in Marshall County, much as Marshall County needs to work with our neighboring counties to elevate our region.

Thayr Richey

Mr. Richey discussed Economic Development as a concept and how it has changed over the past 30 years with the advent of additional technology and the increasing globalism of our economy.  There are now over 100 local economic development offices (LEDO’s) in the State of Indiana.  He allowed Jennifer Laurent, MCEDC’s Executive Director, to speak on the specifics of what MCEDC is doing to promote Marshall County locally, regionally and nationally.  He then assessed those functions and how they related to the board and commission members in attendance.  It was good to hear that we are, for the most part, on the right track.

In discussions about site selectors, Mr. Richey told how it has almost become a game of speed dating for the LEDO’s.  You have a very limited time to make a good first impression, exchange telephone numbers and leave some kind of hook that might get you a date in the future.  Ms. Laurent told of a recent meeting she attended in Indianapolis where members of the Site Selectors Guild were present.  She said the analogy was a good one and it was a great opportunity to connect and get a feel for their individual styles.  She said she felt like she came away with positive connections to seven site selectors that were attending the event.

Dealing with new business prospects is like a game of Musical Chairs…

One of the important thing that I hope our representatives took away was the extreme competition that is out there.  We have to have a viable product to sell and we have to have all the pertinent information available to supply a prospect within days.  He went through the 200 point request for information (RFI) that Ms. Laurent receives on a regular basis, usually with a 24 or 48 hour deadline for turn-around.  One of the things that often drops us from a prospects list is the lack of interstate highway access.  “The new goal is ’55 in 5′; Companies want their trucks up to speed at 55 mph within 5 miles of their facility when they’re shipping product,” said Richey, adding, “Dealing with new business prospects and RFI’s is like a game of Musical Chairs.  Your economic development people are striving to stay relevant and make it to the next round, while the site selector is looking for reasons to eliminate them and get the potential number of sites down to manageable size.”

We discussed the ways we have of overcoming items such as the interstate request and Ms. Laurent said we have made progress with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to make sure that we were not eliminated from initial searches for that.  The advent of the Internet and the ease that searches can be done online has made MCEDC’s job increasingly difficult since we are often eliminated before we even know we were being considered.  Prompted by a question from the audience, Ms. Laurent also told a little about our efforts to form a “U.S. 30 Coalition” with the objective of preserving U.S. 30 as a thoroughfare and controlling the addition of stop lights. MCEDC as well as other local LEDO’s are in discussions with the group that spearheaded the U.S. 31 Coalition to be our advocates.

Since Plymouth is currently updating their Comprehensive Plan and Culver is is the process of selecting a consultant to help update their Comprehensive Plan (A previous post about Culver’s Comprehensive Plan efforts is here.), I asked where and how economic development should fit in.  Mr. Richey said that the input of our LEDO is critical to this planning.  They can provide input into what tools they need to encourage development and they can make sure that the language in the plan dovetails into the LEDO’s marketing plan.  This is very much a case where MCEDC needs something to market.  The Comprehensive Plan should show that willingness and vision for growth.  It was emphasized several times that the current manufacturing standard of “just in time” delivery applies to site and building acquisition.  Expanding companies want properties that are “shovel ready” and each have their own interpretation of what that means.  Even better, they like to see a building that meets their needs and is ready to move into.  (MCEDC is currently working with the Plymouth Redevelopment Commission to put up a shell building as part of their marketing effort.  Discussed in the ECC blog here and on WTCA’s site here.)

Wrapping up the session, Mr. Thayer discussed the use of Tax Abatements and Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) as the two tools the State of Indiana has given Marshall County to assist with economic development.  The allowances on Tax Abatements have changed where a municipality is able to give a 100% tax abatement for up to 10 years.  The municipality has the option of adding “claw back” provisions, giving abatements for less time or a lower percentage, but the developer is always going to ask for the maximum.  This could be one of the things that pulls your chair.  (Back to the Musical Chairs reference.)  TIF Districts are being used by several of Marshall County’s communities to varying degrees of success.  He gave several tips on how they could be and should be used as well as common mistakes make by the governing bodies that used them.

All in all the presentation was informative and I think it was helpful in generating discussion amongst our County and municipal representatives.  I was pleased with those that made the effort to attend.

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