SIDNEY – To promote economic and community development, Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership officials said public and private investments are needed and the perception of Sidney and Shelby County must change.
Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership hosted a business after hours session Tuesday evening at the Historic Sidney Theatre. Approximately 75 community and business leaders attended and heard about the issues facing Sidney and Shelby County and strategies on how to overcome them.
“We know that many of our area employers are struggling,” Jeff Raible, the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce president, said. “They’re struggling to attract and retain the talent that they need to operate and grow their businesses. Shelby County has an enviable number of world-class organizations at work here, and I think the only thing holding some of them back to achieving even higher levels of greatness is their inability to staff all their open positions.”
Shelby County produces $7.1 billion in manufacturing shipments a year, said Jim Hill, executive director of Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership. The county is No. 1 in Ohio with 46.5 percent of its workforce employed in manufacturing, he said, and five of the Miami Valley’s 12 largest manufacturing businesses are located in the county.
While there’s a lot to be proud of, Hill said, there are challenges in recruiting enough employees to grow those businesses.
“We really are all in a global battle for talent, and here in Shelby County it is no exception,” he said.
Traditional economic development focused on business retention, business expansion and business development but in modern times there has been a shift to talent attraction and placemaking – creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being.
Many individuals want desirable social, recreational and entertainment amenities near the places they live and work. Raible said Sidney and Shelby County offer many of those features, but people aren’t recognizing them.
“The group felt that Sidney, and to a lesser extent Shelby County in general, has a perception problem,” Raible said. “As evidence, many companies that were in attendance that day suggested that to their new hires they were recommending Miami County as a preferred place for a home.”
To attract people to Shelby County, Raible said, the community needs to brand itself as a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Thus, the Sidney Visitors Bureau and Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce contacted five national branding agencies, hoping outside perspective will help accentuate the community’s positives, work to correct any negatives and craft a brand that promotes the area as an attractive place to live, work and visit.
The cost of brand development will be $35,000-$40,000, Raible said. Leaders have identified $20,000 in funding from the City of Sidney, Sidney Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. They also found a potential grant for $7,500 but still need about $10,000. Raible requested corporate support Tuesday evening to fund the rest of the brand development.
Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann highlighted how public–private partnerships can benefit companies and communities. She pointed to the current development of an Italian restaurant in downtown Sidney as an example of a successful public–private partnership. Government officials were able to offer tax incentives that made the project financially feasible, she said, and the community benefits from revitalization.
Both Ehemann and Sidney Alive Executive Director Amy Breinich said there are additional opportunities to develop downtown Sidney.
“I certainly don’t want to scare off private investors in this community, exactly the opposite, because I believe we’re at a point today among many of us in this room that we all want Sidney and Shelby County to thrive and grow,” Ehemann said.
Another issue that must be addressed, Hill said, is affordable housing throughout the county. Municipal cooperation and flexibility along with Community Reinvestment Area incentives are needed to make housing development affordable, he said.
Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership’s next visioning session to continue developing plans for economic and community growth will be from 8-10 a.m. Nov. 12 at the Amos Public Library in Sidney. For more information or to get involved, contact Hill at 937-498-9554 or jhill@chooseSidneyShelby.com.
“There’s always room for more people to get involved and to serve on the committees with new ideas,” Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership Chairman Mick Given said. “I’m very, very excited with the enthusiasm that we have going on right now.”
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