More planning needed to market Batesville

Debbie Blank | The Herald-TribuneBatesville Main Street executive director Tina Longstreth said planning is needed to "really define exactly where we want to be in the future ... and then working backwards from there, how we market ourselves" to attract new businesses and families to Batesville. With her is community development director Steven Harmeyer.

A committee comprised of Batesville Economic Development Commission President Kevin McGuire and member Ginnie Faller, economic development director Sarah Lamping, community development director Steven Harmeyer and Batesville Main Street executive director Tina Longstreth "has received bids back from multiple organizations relating to the marketing of Batesville," McGuire announced at the July 19 BEDC meeting.

"We had a really good discussion about it. Some of the proposals are $150,000+. ... We don't have the funds available to perhaps do everything." The committee will use the rest of this year for planning, anticipating having funding available in 2020.

Longstreth observed, "I feel like right now there's a synergy going on in the city. There is a core group of people working really well together."

The president said, "My hope is through that planning process as we get into November and December, we'll have a cohesive plan and a strategy" plus an estimate of the dollars needed.

Member Kevin Campbell asked if the committee was leaning toward a particular marketing company. Lamping answered, "There are pieces of each and every one of them that are appealing."

McGuire requested $15,000 from Economic Development Income Tax funds for marketing planning purposes and BEDC unanimously voted to provide that amount to the marketing committee.

Member J.B. Showalter told committee members, "Our No. 1 goal is to get out of your way and also to provide wind for your sails. ... Our role may not be funding as much as orchestrating, making sure everybody is aligned."

Switching topics, the president said, "As we get some clarity from a budget perspective," he wanted to have a strategic planning session to decide how to spend the money the group will have next year. Lamping will find a recommended facilitator for a one-day strategy session.

Members considered three Building Improvement Grant applications for this quarterly cycle. Property owners of businesses and nonprofits can receive matching funds up to $5,000 to improve building exteriors.

McGuire reminded, "We have $4,300 left" from the $15,000 earmarked for 2019 after three grants were awarded at the April 18 meeting.

Tractor Supply will move into part of the former Shopko space at Cross County Plaza. The $1.1 million renovation project will include revamping space and adding outdoor corrals for products. Officials requested $5,000 to assist them with that project. According to McGuire, "They anticipate starting construction next week" and opening in the early fourth quarter. How the $5,000 would be spent was not specified. Lamping noted the application said the property's curb appeal would be enhanced.

McGuire pointed out Tractor Supply is a tenant, not a building owner. "That should be a consideration. They have not come to us for anything else," such as a tax abatement. Faller felt Tractor Supply should work with the landlord, First Sentry Properties, on renovation funding. "They put up construction that stays with the landlord."

It will cost $12,315 to paint the Hillrom training building, 1 S. Main St., exterior. The president recalled, "We just did an abatement for Hillrom for two of their buildings" that were being upgraded. A 10-year 30 percent tax abatement was approved by the city council in January. "Hillrom is a wonderful community partner, has been here forever."

Faller observed, "They're taking a downtown building and improving a facade." Application notes stated the building contains asbestos and is not configured well for training. "I don't even know if they're going to use the building." McGuire said, "At the end of the day, I don't know that it matters if the spirit of the program is to improve the visual appeal of downtown."

Longstreth reported, "Through private funding, Batesville Main Street has commissioned Kelsey Montague, an internationally-known muralist, to do a mural on the back of that building" on Walnut Street starting last week. "Fresh paint (on the sides of Main and Pearl streets) would really enhance that project overall."

Giesting Financial requested $2,713 to update the sign and awning. Faller said, "I didn't think we wanted to use BIG funds for awnings or signs." McGuire remembered, "In our last round, we did approve an awning for Geis" Electronics. He really felt the need to help out smaller companies.

McGuire proposed granting $2,000 to Giesting Financial and $2,300 to Hillrom and BEDC agreed. Tractor Supply's proposal was not funded.

Faller commented, "I thought this program was incredibly successful this year." According to Lamping, "It's a good city incentive we have available to small businesses."

The president wondered if businesses and nonprofits should be able to apply once a year rather than each quarter so all applications could be mulled at once.

Next year the program will be funded by BEDC through EDIT revenue instead of Tax Increment Financing dollars allocated by the Batesville Redevelopment Commission.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

More conversation

• Lamping spoke about the continuing effort to sell the city-owned shell building: "A lot of our prospects have come looking for a lease," some short term. The consensus is a seven-year lease is the minimum desired period. She is engaged in finding a third party purchaser who would manage a tenant. "If we could get a long-term lease in there, we could probably sell the building right away." BEDC wants that purchaser to understand the city's goal to attract more jobs.

• The economic development director is continuing to work with the Columbus Center for Learning on a 21st Century Talent Region designation. "We all know workforce is an issue for the entire state." Gaining that designation "would provide us the opportunity to work with other like communities" to collaborate on initiatives that would benefit the region, and also get technical assistance and the prestige of being known as "a community that is strong in trying to generate and recruit talent."

• A change in taxing legislation makes having a data center in an area more lucrative. According to Lamping, "Hoosier Energy in particular is making a strong effort to get data centers in our area. Unfortunately, Batesville does not quality" because there is not a suitable site here based on the criteria.

• Harmeyer is working with photographers to launch a social media project for Batesville, according to his monthly report.