BOTKINS — The progress of Shelby County was the focus of the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce’s president during the annual meeting Thursday at the Palazzo in Botkins.
Jeff Raible said the chamber has scheduled five employee development seminars, two major member participation events, six Business After Hours and two ribbon-cutting ceremonies so far in 2023.
The Human Resources, Workplace Safety and YPconnect special interest groups are in full swing as is the Leadership Shelby County class who will graduate later this year. In the coming weeks, the chamber will formally announce the addition of a new member discount program with Shred-It for those needing a one-time purge or regularly scheduled document destruction services.
One of the focus points for the chamber is enhancing and promoting the area as a community where people want to live. It’s called placemaking, said Raible, and he shared more information about it.
“Everyone here knows very well the quality of community we have in Shelby County, right? It continues to be the chamber’s pursuit both locally and beyond our borders to familiarize others and to help them appreciate that Shelby County is not only a great place to work, but an awesome place to live as well,” he said.
“The chamber is but one of many local stakeholders, both public and private, who are working collaboratively in pursuit of a better Sidney and Shelby County. Credit in this joint effort goes to the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, Sidney Alive, the city of Sidney, the Shelby County Commissioners, Mick Given, Mike Lochard, Phil Gilardi and several others dedicated to this undertaking. As for the chamber, we’re honored to be at the table and appreciate the confidence these individuals and organizations have placed in us to help further this process,” he said.
To share the county’s story, the chamber has created The Spirit We Share video, which has more than 22,000 views. The ExperienceSidney.com website provides information about topics like local lifestyle, education and healthcare.
“We see ExperienceSidney.com as a way for local employers to seal the deal when recruiting in a competitive environment. Essentially, you as employers can sell the merits of the career opportunities at your respective organizations while we help sell the merits of living in Sidney and Shelby County,” he said. “For those currently traveling to or through Shelby County for employment, we’re utilizing outdoor advertising to catch their attention and persuade them to consider living here as opposed to enduring a long commute.”
Social media and search engine marketing strategies are used to direct people to ExperienceSidney.com where they can learn more about the attributes of the community.
Over the course of the last 19 months, ExperienceSidney.com has had over 6,800 web sessions, translating to an average of 360 engaged site visitors every month. Total Facebook views promoting ExperienceSidney.com since June 2021 are nearly 1,060,000. According to Google Analytics, cities with the highest user interest are Columbus, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
In 2023, the chamber enhanced the mobile experience for site visitors. Links have been added to all county village websites giving Experience Sidney site visitors access to information about their brand of the Shelby County lifestyle experience.
“We have added a link to ExperienceSidney.com on HometownOpportunity.com so those using this site for their job search can easily learn more about the communities in which our businesses operate. Also there, site users can find information about local realtors in Shelby County with links to their websites as well,” said Raible.
A heat mapping tool has been added to the site enabling digital strategists to see where site users are spending most of their time.
Tom Giesken with Giesken Outdoor has offered to publish ads on two of his Interstate 75 billboards situated between Sidney exits 90 and 92 for the outdoor advertising campaign. One faces north and the other south.
To enhance the social media campaign, they are producing three video shorts (60 seconds each) and as many as 12 video snippets (15 seconds each). The new videos will be embedded on the website and will be used in social media campaigns inviting people to visit the Experience Sidney website.
“You know it’s said that every new resident is a visitor first,” said Raible. “With that in mind, our strategy in 2023 is to craft as many Sidney Visitors Bureau ads as possible with the ‘would be’ new resident in mind. After all, what makes our area a great place to visit, also makes it a great place to live, right?”
Raible thanked his staff for their work the past year: Dawn Eilert, chamber vice president; Kim Swartz, accounting and administration assistant; and retiree Cheri Dalton.
The chamber shares its office with Deb McDermott, executive director of the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County; Kelly Edwards, career coach with the Workforce Partnership; Shelly Barhorst, programming coordinator with the Workforce Partnership; Betty Wehrman with the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership; and Jim Hill, executive director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership.
Hill spoke after Raible to provide an update on site development and the housing initiative in the area.
Hill announced the Wagner Manufacturing building is within weeks of executing a contract to start the demolition process and the incubator feasibility study for redeveloping the land after demolition is in its final draft.
He said there are about 750 new housing opportunities coming to the county. He also discussed a new website called SidneyHousing.com, which will be similar to ExperienceSidney.com but will focus on owning, investing and developing in Sidney. He mentioned Sidney-Shelby County has ranked in the top 100 U.S. micropolitans by Site Selection Magazine for 12 years and ranked number three in 2022.
“I think all of the pieces are in place here. With the housing moving forward, with the job situation, with all the economic positive news, Sidney and Shelby County really have a lot of new things to talk about. We know that one of the continuing issues is being able to attract workers, so we want to just help that process and help you move forward in that arena, so you’ll be hearing more about that situation,” said Hill.