As the City Manager in Kent I am a member of the Portage County Economic Development Board so I’ve had a front row seat to watch this new organization go from a good idea to an actual generator of jobs in Portage County.
There’s always room for the County to join cities and towns at the economic development table and it’s been great to have a new partner to turn to for leads, contacts, and business opportunities. More feet on the street, knocking on doors and drumming up business for Portage County is a good thing and I’m pleased with the early returns from effort.
The Portage Development Board is made up of local business leaders that have agreed to volunteer their time (and often their money) to be a part of buildling a better economic future for Portage County. Everyone wins with a stronger Portage County.
The volunteer board members bring their collective business wisdom to the table and then hand the ball off to the staff to run with it. It’s a model with a proven track record and it’s encouraging to see Portage County heading down that track.
In the business of economic development, the strength of the local relationships and networks is the difference between being a runner-up and being on the podium announcing new jobs, new technology investments and business expansion. Building these local relationships is arguably the most important by-product of this new County effort.
The reality is cities have often felt that they are left out on their own to fight for every business scrap, crumb and morsel they could find which naturally led them to be pretty territorial and parochial — with an I have to win so that you lose mentality. Changing those longstanding perceptions is hard work but that’s exactly what the Portage Development Board is in the process of undoing.
It turns out that we can work together and we do grow stronger as a county by cooperating and combining our resources. The old scarcity model was wrong; prosperity is contagious and economic growth occurs more frequently in counties that have witnessed job growth irrespective of city boundaries, so your gain will be my gain too.
Here’s a short press release issued by the Portage Development Board:
July 11, 2012
Portage Development Board
217 South Chestnut Street
Ravenna, OH 44266
Contact: Brad Ehrhart, President
For Immediate Release:
Portage Development Board Announces Activity for First Half of 2012
Ravenna, OH – The Portage Development Board announces that it has successfully worked on eight projects that will generate over $125 million in new investment in Portage County. These
projects will keep 800 people working in Portage County, and over the next three years these projects will create 340 new jobs for the county. The total annual payroll for jobs retained and to be created is nearly $70 million.
“We have some exciting things happening in Portage County,” said Lissa Barry, Chair of the Portage Development Board (PDB), “and we thank these companies for making an investment in Portage County.”
To accomplish this terrific start to 2012, PDB partnered with Jobs Ohio/Team Northeast Ohio, the Ohio Department of Development, Portage Workforce Connection, the Portage County Port Authority, the Development Financing Authority of Summit County, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Greater Akron Chamber, Neighborhood Development Services, Maplewood Career Center, Portage County, and the communities of Aurora, Brimfield, Kent, Ravenna, Streetsboro, and Tallmadge.
“Collaboration is the key to each of these successful projects,” said Brad Ehrhart, President of the PDB, “We are grateful for the assistance from each of partners.”
In addition to the project work, as of June 30, 2012, we have called on 74 existing companies to see what we can do to assist them to stay and grow in Portage County. These calls have generated 53 referrals to our partners such the Ohio Small Business Development Center, Portage Workforce Connection, Northeast Ohio Trade and Economic Consortium, the Kent State University College of Technology, and Neighborhood Development Services. Our goal is to contact over 150 companies in 2012.
Finally, PDB, the county chambers and the city economic developers started sponsoring quarterly Industrial Round Tables that will focus on major business climate issues that are being identified from the business calling program. Our first Industrial Round Table was held on April 24th at Maplewood Career Center, and it focused on local workforce development resources. Our second Industrial Round Table will be on September 12th at 7:30 am at Maplewood Career Center and it will focus on the Ohio Workers Compensation System.
The Portage Development Board is a private-public partnership that is responsible for the coordination of economic development activities in Portage County. The PDB became operational as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit on February 1, 2011. It is funded by the Portage County Board of Commissioners and contributions from the private sector, local institutions, and local communities. Its mission is to help companies to stay, grow, start-up, and locate in Portage County. The board’s goal is job creation and retention.
Formore information on PDB and up-coming events, please call 330-297-3470.