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Development plans discussed

Council holds work session and looks to future economic development strategies

December 13, 2012
Anne Blankenship ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

Members of the City Council of Webster City discussed several topics related to the community's ongoing economic development efforts Wednesday night during a work session in council chambers.

Councilman Doug Getter walked his fellow council members through a proposed strategic plan for entrepreneurship in the community. The plan is built upon experiences that the University of Northern Iowa through the Institute for Decision Making and other entrepreneurial outreach activities, Getter said.

"Essentially, this consisted of a multi-phase series of steps," Getter said. The phases included data collection, an educational component, developing a strategy focusing on community entrepreneurship and the fourth phase - introducing the draft plan to various stakeholders in the community.

"We are seeking to inform them of what went into the plan, what plan consists of and then look to their endorsements of the plan," he said.

As part of the UNI grant process, Getter said three outcomes were defined for the project over the next few years of implementation.

"Their expectation is to see 10 new business starts, 20 expansions and 36 or more new employees," he said. "I'm confident we can hit those thresholds."

The plan also defined several key areas and objectives for implementing the plan.

Getter said the plan would taken to various groups in the community to gauge reaction and to gather input before the plan is sent off for finalization.

The council members also talked about the benefits and challenges of the current economic development plan for the city. Daniel Anderson, a consultant and president of Economic Development Strategies, led the City Council through the results of a survey the group had completed.

In the survey, the council members gave their impressions of the mission of Webster City Economic Development. Encouraging new business and industry while encouraging existing business and industry to grow, providing a welcoming place to do business and to bring new jobs.

Anderson said the group identified community strengths such as an available workforce, experienced employees, utilities that can support new and expanding business, near a major interstate and a four-lane highway, rail access, good schools, quality of life, knowledge of finding funding sources and having a skilled economic development director in David Toyer.

Challenges identified included not having enough of the right-sized buildings to offer prospects, lack of dollars for incentives, site constraints, competition with other cities and negative attitudes in the community.

The council spent a substantial amount of time discussing ways to effectively inform local residents about what is happening in economic development. While often constrained by the need for confidentiality with prospects, the council members said it would be possible to have Toyer give more regular updates at City Council meetings or have a special televised meeting on the fourth Monday of the month devoted to economic development issues.

Councilman Geary Myer said that Toyer's presentation at the last meeting which dispelled many of the myths circulating in the community about the Electrolux tech center was a good example of what could be covered at a special meeting.

"We need to create every avenue we can to communicate what Webster City Economic Development is all about. We need to tell your story repeatedly," Anderson said.

Toyer said that he writes updates in City Scene a couple times per year, writes a regular blog on the economic development website, sends out enewsletters to all interested parties and offers information through the website,

"I think we really need to celebrate our successes and play up the accomplishments," said Getter.



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