BOTKINS — Jeff Raible, president Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, was all smiles as he welcomed chamber members back to the annual dinner and awards ceremony at The Palazzo Tuesday night. It was the first dinner meeting since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
”So what has the Chamber been up to you ask? Well, in addition to our customary programming and member services routines, we’ve directed considerable energy and focus this past year toward creating and promoting a sense of place for Sidney and Shelby County. It’s this I’d like to talk more about tonight,” said Raible.
“According to an article recently published by Brookings, a well-respected public policy organization, most small and midsized industrial heartland communities still rely on traditional economic development strategies to reinvigorate their economies. Essentially they continue doling out incentives to attract and retain employers or attempt to create a more ‘business-friendly’ environment with lower taxes and labor costs.
“In their article Brookings suggests what we as a community realized two years ago; that these traditional economic development tools are becoming increasingly ineffective when compared to investments communities are making toward improving their quality of place. Brookings concluded that lifestyle amenities such as recreation and cultural activities, attractive public spaces, and the availability of often sought after services like good schools and healthcare are in many ways more substantial contributors to a healthy local economy than the more traditional ‘business-friendly’ measures,” he said.
He said the chamber is one of many local stakeholders who are working to make Sidney and Shelby County better place to live and work.
“Credit in this joint effort goes to the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, Sidney Alive, the City of Sidney, the Shelby County Commissioners, and individually to Mick Given, Mike Lochard, Phil Gilardi, DJ Baird, and Denny Sollmann. 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,” said Raible.
“Early last year we produced and unveiled a community brand video titled ‘The Spirit We Share.’ This video presents visually the community brand story we finalized in late 2020. Perhaps you’ve seen the video? If not, you can find it on the Chamber and Visitors Bureau web sites, YouTube, Facebook, and several other popular online locations. In the video we endeavored to capture the essence of life in Sidney and Shelby County. To date, The Spirit We Share video has surpassed 22,000 views,” he said.
“I was told by Sidney City Manager Andrew Bowsher that Sidney City Staff were not long ago meeting virtually with officials from Ichihara (Ee-Chee-Aara), a city of 275,000 in Japan, about a potential Sister City relationship. After viewing the video, the Development Director, their No. 2 public official commented that if he was ever lucky enough to come to the United States, he wants Sidney to be one of the first places he visits. That comment was music to our ears and exactly the response we had hoped to invoke when developing our brand story and brand story video.”
The chamber also published the website, ExperienceSidney.com.
“ExperienceSidney.com is a lifestyle website developed to serve as an information hub for anyone considering a relocation to Sidney or Shelby County,” said Raible. “ExperienceSidney.com was developed to answer the questions of a broad demographic profile covering the full spectrum from young adult to senior citizen; from young families with school-aged children to empty nesters. On this site we provide information about real estate, apartment rentals, and healthcare. There’s information about career opportunities, outdoor recreation, restaurants & shopping. You’ll also find information about area schools and childcare, local churches, social services, and senior living. Honestly, we’ve tried to cover everything a new home seeker might be interested to know.”
The chamber he said understands the challenges faced by members to fill job vacancies within their organizations.
“As such, we believe this site can be effective with attracting new and perspective residents to the area. It is for this reason we highly encourage our members to publish links to ExperienceSidney.com on their web sites so that those considering a position with their company can have easy access to this comprehensive informational resource. Both digital and print assets have been developed for your use to promote the site and are available from the Chamber.
“Given the abundant career opportunities in Shelby County, we see ExperienceSidney.com as a way for local employers to seal the deal when recruiting in a competitive environment. Essentially, you sell the merits of the career opportunities at your company and we’ll sell the merits of living in Sidney and Shelby County,” he said.
For those currently traveling to or through Shelby County for employment, the chamber is utilizing outdoor advertising to catch their attention and persuade them to consider living here as opposed to enduring a long commute. For both the new home seeker and new career seeker, the chamber is employing social media, key word search, and search engine marketing strategies to direct them to ExperienceSidney.com where they can learn all about the attributes of our fine community.
“Our goal to push traffic to the site appears to be paying off. Since June of last year, ExperienceSidney.com has enjoyed over 3,500 sessions, about 400 per month. In total, our social media campaign has placed invitations to visit ExperienceSidney.com on the screens of nearly 30,000 people,” said Raible.
And how is the city/county going to handle a major influx of new residents when there are no homes available?
“By now you’ve probably heard about the Burr Oak Development in Sidney. Burr Oak is both a residential and commercial development that is paving the way for construction of more than 220 single family homes. In addition, new home construction is also underway in Jackson Center, Botkins, Anna, Fort Loramie, and Russia. The availability of these new homes will open the door to new residents. Those wanting to build, can. Those seeking a preowned home will have the opportunity to purchase one from a current homeowner who has made the decision to build something new,” said Raible.
And finally, downtown Sidney? Seems everywhere I go and with everyone I speak, I hear the praises of downtown Sidney. New and remodeled restaurants. New and expanded specialty shops. Transformative renovations underway at the Historic Sidney Theatre making it not only a wonderful venue for live shows and first run movies, but an incredible event space as well. Downtown Sidney is enjoying a renaissance of sorts and there’s lot’s more to come.
Raible asked Mick Given to provide an overview of the enhancement program for downtown Sidney.
Given said he is proud of all the people who are coming together to make downtown Sidney the place where people want to be. There’s been a $9.7 million investment during the past five years to improve the downtown area, he said.
“We’re ready to take the downtown area to the next level,” said Given.
Some of the plans include archways, lighted alleys from parking lots to the downtown area and crosswalks.
The project has a budget of $1.3 million, said Given. The city of Sidney and Shelby County Commissioners have committed $550,000 to the project. Fundraising is planned, he said, with another $200,000 already earmarked for the project. Phase 1 he said, should start this summer.