Sunday, May 01, 2011

Port Authority director seeks new local marketing strategy

Written by
Kathie Dickerson

COSHOCTON -- Port Authority Director Dorothy Skowrunski said it's time to step back, evaluate things, and maybe take a different approach when trying to attract new businesses.

"We're not the only ones competing; we're up against lots of other communities that are in the same boat," she said.

The previous port authority director T.J. Justice focused on the large aquifer the city has access to, plus its capacity to produce up to 16 million gallons of treated water per day. Justice also promoted large development sites available in the area, including 200 acres near West Lafayette and the former General Electric site on South Second Street.

As the former director of Central Ohio Technical College Coshocton Campus, Skowrunski had an opportunity to be part of the Economic Development Task Force charged with setting out priorities in several different areas, including economic development.

That report was finished about five years ago, and it's been taken out and a review by various subcommittee members is under way, she said.

Hopefully by June, she'll have an idea what's the next course for some of those task force recommendations.

"One of my major goals is to develop a marketing strategy," she said. "But a lot of pieces need to be pulled together before I can."

Technology is a big factor in connecting in today's world, and even economic development has delved into social networking such as Facebook and Twitter, she said.

"A website is key to show what the community can offer," she said. "A company will do a lot of online research looking at data and obtaining a lot of information about an area before they even pick up the phone."

The Port Authority is in the process of revamping its website.

While the Internet might eliminate a lot of phone contact from potential companies looking to locate, it also can be beneficial.

Skowrunski plans to upload the updated Economic Development Task Force plan later this year. Hopefully reviews on what's been accomplished and what's not will be completed by June.

"That's the beauty of the web, that report doesn't have to sit on the shelf," she said. "Anybody can click on it, look at it, and see where we are and where we're going."

Once that's completed, Skowrunski said a marketing committee will be formed, and a request for proposals for a marketing company will be released.

She sees things such as the Revolving Loan Fund and the business incubator as tools that will help Coshocton's future economic growth.

In her search for ideas, Skowrunski found a successful "economic gardening" project that worked for small community in Littleton, Colo. The idea behind the concept is that often large corporations will pull up roots when the cost of doing business gets higher than somewhere else, such as Third World countries.

Building the economy from the inside out, relying primarily on entrepreneurs and providing nuturing support for those companies, is the gist of "economic gardening," as opposed to "economic hunting."

"We know that most new jobs are going to come from small business," she said. "So if we can help 50 small businesses create one, two, five or 10 jobs, that will add up."

kdickers@coshocton; (740) 295-3442

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