It takes a village

How to achieve what seems insurmountable through collaboration and creativity

“Collaboration was the key.”
In my more than 20 years assisting clients in the public and private sectors, it’s the phrase I’ve heard municipal and corporate leaders use most often to describe why catalytic economic development efforts succeeded.
The $19 million-plus grant recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to the city of Conneaut is a perfect example. The only grant awarded in Ohio by the U.S. DOT this year and one of the top five grants awarded across the United States, this award is the result of collaboration among the city, the Conneaut Port Authority, the Conneaut Foundation, inSITE, Envision and CT Consultants.
Determined individuals with vision normally get things started and take on what can seem to be insurmountable goals. But it’s the collaborative efforts of a team that are usually responsible for bringing a project across the finish line. In cases like this, the village is larger than the city, especially when it comes to the creative partnering that is required to ensure success.
As the city said in its October press release, the ability for new economic capacity from the grant award will be transformative for the city and result in new rail service, the creation of new streets and the support of large manufacturing companies with cutting-edge, green technologies. EnRevo Pyro, a renewable energy company, is signing on by selecting a site in the East Conneaut Industrial Park.
inSITE Advisory Group was chosen early on to assist the city in identifying development opportunities, obtaining financing, generating new investment and marketing the community to organizations seeking to relocate or expand. But it was the creativity and collective efforts of everyone involved that resulted in the unprecedented grant award.
That same type of collaboration proved successful when the city of New Franklin put together a team to create a road map for progress and development by investing in its water infrastructure. Burdened with an antiquated system of wells and septic systems, city officials knew that clean drinking water is at the core of sustainable economic development and that they needed to address their problem.
New Franklin officials had a previous working relationship with inSITE, and they worked together to assemble the right team to successfully win a grant from the Ohio EPA. The team collaborated on a solid plan and effectively communicated with residents and other key stakeholders to gather local support, which ultimately led to a very successful outcome.
The result will be new water lines that will navigate dense residential neighborhoods to the main business corridor, making possible the redevelopment of more than 100 acres of prime land and setting the stage for the creation of new jobs and residential and commercial opportunities for the city.

Smart economic development is about having the right plan and strategy and being able to assemble the right team that can collaborate and execute. It’s also about having the right people at the table.

Jennifer Syx is president of inSITE Advisory Group