Gain a sharper focus: WAEDC works to make message clearer on JRS site

With certification from the state and now certification from a major transportation company, a greater effort needs to be placed on sharpening the message about Wapakoneta’s new industrial park, a business organization member says.

The city’s 471-acre West Central Ohio Industrial Center received the Ohio Department of Development’s Job Ready Sites certification in October 2010, one of the first five in the state, and in February CSX Corp. certified the site under its new Select Sites program, one of  first five in the country.

Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council (WAEDC) Executive Director Greg Myers told the Wapakoneta Daily News that WAEDC board members continue to investigate ways to better market the site to realtors and businesses executives and to communicate to the public the site’s strong position in the global real estate market.

“Part of our mission is to constantly hone the message and look for new ways to get the message out to the public and to prospective end-users,” Myers said. “For us, we are a small community with a fairly small budget so we always have to look for new ways at a minimal or no cost to get the message out to as many places as we can.

“That is the beauty of the CSX Select Site certification is we are not paying CSX to go out and market our site, they are doing it because of the site’s quality,” he said. “This is a good deal for us and now there is more effort in trying to sell the site.”

During Wednesday’s WAEDC meeting, board member Teri Hirschfeld reported on her discussions Friday with CSX officials Steve Davis and Clark Robertson, JobsOhio officials Matt Cybulsky and Sheena Metzger and the Austin Co. representative Jonathan Gemmen. They visited Wapakoneta for the CSX Select Site certification presentation to the city held at the Wapakoneta City Administration Building.

Hirschfeld said she talked with Robertson, who is CSX assistant vice president of regional development, to better understand the CSX Select Site program as well as how to leverage the site and add power to the city’s message about the 471-acre West Central Ohio Industrial Center.

“Right now, I think they have this kernel of an idea, and it’s a good idea, and how can we, CSX and the city, take that and make something out of it — we need to take this to the next level,” Hirschfeld said. “The good news is they are very open to us working with them to take it to the next level or levels.

“Clark is very excited about our JRS site, in fact, he verbalized that they don’t have anything like this,” she said. “To me, that says the next step is ours. We need to engage these people further and see what we can do to make this move forward.”

In a discussion with Cybulsky prior to Wednesday’s meeting, he told Hirschfeld that most business officials tell them they are still looking at existing buildings that can be converted before they begin discussions on the possibility of building a new plant.

She reported Cybulsky advised her they would likely be in this cycle for at least two more years, but it is not improbable a company would not want to build a plant in Wapakoneta — just most executives are looking at existing buildings first.

Hirschfeld also stressed the need to keep the Wapakoneta community in the loop on selling the site.

“I think we need to help the community understand and not look at this as a negative,” Hirschfeld said regarding this pattern of executives looking first at existing buildings. “We need to look at over 2012 and 2013 what is our communication strategy with the community to keep people engaged.

“We have a fabulous opportunity here,” she said. “There is a communication effort we need to engage proactively and start helping people understand what we have here and not to lose faith.”

She also advised board members the need to revisit their own message of “Beyond Shovel Ready” and sharpen the image of that message.

Hirschfeld and Myers agreed these are stepping stones to build a complete picture with a sharper focus.

“These are all pieces of a very good puzzle that we are putting together — whether it is CSX, Dominion, AEP — we have all the stuff that makes this the best site in Ohio,” Myers said. “That picture is becoming much clearer.”