Archive for Thursday, February 13, 2003

City OKs industry search study

February 13, 2003

In a move to make economic development more efficient, the city of De Soto will seek to identify the industries that best fit the city.

At last Thursday's meeting, the De Soto City Council approved the request from Sara Ritter, executive director of the De Soto Economic Development Council, to finance a targeted-industry study.

Ritter explained the study would allow her to be more efficient by focusing economic development recruitment efforts on companies that offer what De Soto had and desired.

"I don't want to spend what precious dollars we do have on sending hundreds of postcards to a company that's not going to be a good fit," she said.

The $4,500 study's goal would be to identify industries that provided the kinds of jobs the community wanted while fitting the profile of the existing workforce, Ritter said. It would also identify industries that used the utilities the city offered but not consume so much water or sewer capacity at a rate that would create problems, she said.

Finally, the study would look for opportunities by identifying emerging industries or those under-represented in the regional economy, Ritter said.

In response to Councilman Tim Maniez's concerns, Ritter promised the Council and other key "stakeholders" would contribute to the study.

"I want to make sure I go out there with something you're on board with," she said. "That's an underlying part of the entire study. We're not going to go off in an opposite direction. That's not worth my time."

Targeting industries not welcome by the Council would be futile because it made the ultimate decisions, Ritter said. And she suggested the Council could align its tax abatement policies with the study's results secure in the knowledge they reflected the community's priorities and goals.

The study will be performed by John Engelmann and Lisa Franklin of RealInfo. Engelmann was Ritter's boss when both worked for the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation.

Engelmann told the Council he headed a similar effort for Gardner when he was at that position. The goals in Gardner were the same as those Ritter described.

Gardner City Administrator Stewart Fairburn said the Gardner target-industry study was finished three years ago. It identified printing, airplane parts suppliers and services, telecommunications, and plastics as industries the city should target. Those industries already existed in Gardner or the neighboring NewCentury Industrial Air Center, and it was believed they could stimulate further growth, he said.

The city has recruited one printing company, which did not receive a tax abatement, since the study was completed, Fairburn said.

This lack of recruitment success shouldn't be worth a targeted industry study, he said. Gardner has difficulty attracting industry because of a lack of available industrial land and the competition the air center offered.

Fairburn said the city would revisit the targeted industry study as part of its update of its comprehensive plan.

Ritter and Engelmann also recommended regular updates of the targeted industry study to stay current with economic and demographic conditions.

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