By JANE HUH
Posted Nov 18, 2010 @ 10:00 AM
GALESBURG — Communities “cannot be in a parochial mindset” and must work as a team to boost local economic development, said Tom Schmidt, president of the Galesburg Regional Economic Development Association.
That was the message GREDA leaders emphasized at a forum Wednesday focusing on what businesses look for in a community before they decide to relocate or expand.
Wednesday’s event at the Galesburg Public Library was GREDA’s first public forum since Schmidt took the helm of the regional economic development organization in October. Panel speakers featured Steve Warren, a business development executive in Ameren Corporation’s economic development department; Jeff Eirinberg, owner of KATCO; a real estate developer based in Davenport, Iowa; and Michelle Smith, GREDA’s marketing and communications coordinator.
Warren cited 2009 survey results from Area Development Magazine. In the surveys, site selection consultants and their corporate clients from across the country were asked about the selection process and factors that weigh heavily in determining where to do business.
Some of the quality of life factors that topped the concerns of potential clients included the area’s quality of schools, housing costs, crime rates, health-care facilities and recreational activities, Warren said.
Warren and Eirinberg talked about what site selection consultants and their corporate clients these days expect.
And confidentiality is a “non-negotiable” element, Warren said.
“People may not understand, but believe me, it needs to be expected,” he said. “It’s part of doing business.”
Eirinberg mentioned there were “two projects” in Galesburg he has been working on with GREDA. One of those could be ongoing, Eirinberg said, declining to disclose further details.
While both say local economic development agencies play instrumental roles in facilitating communication and research, the rest of the community, from residents to city council members, plays a critical role, they added.
“Economic development is a team sport,” Warren said. “Infighting just slows things down and it comes across.”
“ ... (Getting) your team together is mission number one.”
Warren said some potential businesses and site selection consultants will “go undercover to coffee shops, gas stations” to find out “what’s really going on.”
“They want to know about the negative things,” he said.
Attendees included local business owners, representatives from Carl Sandburg Community College and municipal officials from Knoxville and Galesburg.
“There’s always something to learn from them,” said Cesar Suarez, economic development director for the city of Galesburg, who sat in for the meeting along with Interim City Manager Craig Whitehead.