Oregon council on Monday approved a $70,000 contribution to the Oregon on the Bay Regional Economic Development Foundation.
The city has contributed to the Foundation for the last several years.
The city used to match the amount that was raised by the Foundation, which gets its funding mostly from membership dues and fundraising, but no longer does so, according to Mayor Mike Seferian.
“We just make the total contribution versus waiting for the match,” said Seferian.
Administrator Mike Beazley said the city is one of the few in the area that has an economic development organization that involves a partnership between the private and public sectors.
“It’s one of the places our local and area businesses step up with over $50,000 in contributions and dues, in addition to their fundraising. It makes economic development effort a team effort, which is rare,” said Beazley. “It’s a model that works for the community and it’s a model other communities which they have.”
Beazley said the city no longer matches the funding “because from an accounting perspective and a timing perspective, it didn’t provide for a good cash flow.”
“The city had budgeted up to $70,000 in light of the circumstances of the situation. Up until a couple of years ago, we just allocated the $70,000. It does exceed the total dues contribution. But again, it is a partnership most communities wish they had.”
Councilman Jerry Peach said the amount is roughly half of the budget of the Foundation, which was established 20 years ago.
“We’ve been very lucky for the last 20 years, having businesses large and small, participate. As the mayor has pointed out, the last couple of years, we have simply provided a set sum rather than made it contingent upon matching funds from private businesses. As Mr. Beazley points out, the private sector businesses within and without Oregon have stepped up and found it in their best interests, as well as ours, to participate. We’ve been very lucky to have had the sort of sponsors that we have in the Foundation,” said Peach.
Lindsay Myers, executive director of the Foundation, said the Foundation relies on the financial support of the city to function.
“We can’t do what we do day in and day out without the support of our largest contributor,” said Myers. “If there ever is something that you would like us to begin tackling – I’ve had many conversations with some of the council members here on initiatives and ideas that maybe we should start taking on – I’m open to that and I would love to work on that with you.”
She said the cities of Van Wert and the City of Sylvania have contacted her about a partnership and how it works with the city. “It is a model that other communities would like to be modeled after,” she said.
Councilman James Seaman asked Myers to name some of the highlights that the Foundation has worked on in the last year.
“Some of the highlights are an increase in project activity, both in the commercial and industrial side. We’ve had a couple of local expansions that we’re working on right now. And in years past, again, those companies are still expanding continuously. I think what we’re trying to do now is build from a marketing perspective, and marketing the city of Oregon a lot better than we’ve been doing,” she said. “Those are some of the bigger highlights.”
Seaman wanted to see a focus on attracting more retail in the city.
“I’d like to see more progress. You haven’t been here that long. You have a lot of energy and marketing skills. You’re doing a good job,” he said to Myers. “I just wish we could upgrade our retail establishments to make people feel they can get what they want here in terms of having fun and getting some higher level of consumer goods. But I think that’s on all of our minds. How are we going to do that?”
Councilman Jerry Peach agreed, but noted that the Foundation’s goal for years has been industrial development.
“I want to remind council that at its inception, the Foundation’s primary focus and its mission was the Cedar Point Development Park. It was manufacturing, industrial and large commercial investment. When you look at all the things going on in our industrial quadrant, the expansions that have occurred, and new investment that has occurred in the last 20 years, you can’t help but agree that it’s been wildly successful. Having accomplished many of the goals that were set then allows us to look at our retail footprint and identify areas where we’d like to see greater investment, a different kind of investment. I’d imagine that the partners in the private sector, as well as you here, would wish for Lindsay to focus a little more on the retail segment,” said Peach, who is one of three city representatives in the Foundation.
Councilwoman Kathy Pollauf wanted to know who was in charge of marketing the city.
“I appreciate all the work that has been done. But how can we focus more on marketing Oregon across the board? I am still asking this question every single week. Who in the city does that?” she asked.
Seferian said only the market can control retail, not politicians or the Foundation.
“The market itself will control the demand for retail and the success of retail,” said Seferian. “So what we do as a city is try to make everything we have here successful. And we have done a good job. Remember, we are basically an industrial based city.”
He added that the city has to be patient and “wait for our retail opportunities to come.”
“We are literally 18 minutes away from any of it. Some cities have all those services, but their traffic problem is so great, it takes them more than 18 minutes to get there. So we do have the luxury of having those services near us. A lot of those surrounding communities would love to have our industrial base of refineries, hospitals and other industry we have to provide for our city services,” said Seferian.
He said the worst thing the city could do is attract a high end restaurant or other business that later fails.
“It would give us a stigma that would take us a long time to get over. So we want to see any of the retail that comes here to be successful. The last thing we want to do is get them here before their time. And that’s the thing we struggle with,” he said.
Beazley said it is up to everyone to market the city, not just the Foundation.
“The city, the chamber, the Foundation, the elected officials, the administration, can all do a better job because we like what we have,” said Beazley. “We need to do a better job of telling our story.”