Three companies that have worked with the community in the past are in the running to facilitate a strategic planning session, the city’s economic development director Sarah Lamping told the Batesville Economic Development Commission Aug. 16.
President Kevin McGuire said, “Every one of them talked about doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to Batesville). To be honest with you, I’m SWOTed out.”
Member J.D. Showalter reported, “I feel like the last strategy session (in 2017) was very good” and answered the question “What is a BEDC?” Now he wants to explore “how do we work with the existing organizations in the community and go faster” to achieve success?
Member Kevin Campbell said Batesville is still facing issues from a few years ago and the commission hasn’t heard “good answers on how to solve them yet.”
According to McGuire, “There’s no shortage of ideas ... of fundable projects. At the end of the day, we have a finite amount of money. How much should we keep in reserve” for large projects? “What is the criteria” to evaluate future projects? “How much should be dedicated to marketing?”
Showalter suggested, “Let’s figure out our role and how it fits in the city.” McGuire said, “We need to be realistic. We’re a very passionate, but a volunteer group of folks” that meets once a month.
Lamping said the session’s goal will be to review the city’s 2017 strategic plan, update it “and go forward to the next level.”
The president continued last month’s discussion on the need to market the city to attract families and businesses. At that time, BEDC unanimously voted to provide $15,000 to the marketing committee so that a consultant can help formulate a plan.
Lamping announced, “Kevin McGuire has given his seat on the small (marketing) committee to J.D.” Other committee members are Lamping, BEDC member Ginnie Faller, community development director Steven Harmeyer and Batesville Main Street executive director Tina Longstreth.
The committee has decided BEDC will support a portion of the funding going forward once the plan has been presented.
McGuire said, “My hope is at the end of this process” city officials will have a project cost and how the funds will be used. He questioned whether it was appropriate that BEDC fund all of it. The president wondered who would put the plan into action. Is Batesville Main Street going to help?
Longstreth noted, “I’ve had some secondary conversations with the people that gave proposals” and she plans to interview one of them.
McGuire asked if the $15,000 would be enough to pay for a plan. Longstreth answered, “One of the entities took themselves out.” Campbell mused, “You get what you pay for. If that’s the best one ...” Longstreth said, “I’m comfortable exploring the options that are still on the table.”
McGuire knows the initial amount is just to get a plan. It won’t be enough to redo Batesville’s website or create branding. “Planning and implementation might be two different groups.”
Lamping updated the group about the continuing effort to sell the city-owned shell building. She had a conversation with real estate broker Colliers International representatives recently. They predicted the shell building market over the next 12 months will remain active and strong. In the past month, two aggressive leads were generated by the real estate firm, which joined seven remaining leads. The ED director said, “I feel like this is our year. It’s getting the looks ... The thing we keep running up against: Everybody wants a short-term lease.”
McGuire noted that currently, “building is brisk” so the Batesville structure has more competition. The city, at least to this point, is not interested in signing a lease. It’s better if a company owns the building and leases it.
Clerk-Treasurer Paul Gates explained if the Batesville Redevelopment Commission takes over the shell building payments, BEDC could budget its funding for future projects. BRC may decide that at the Aug. 28 meeting.