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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Economic Development--Evansville---Focus Groups Report==Whalen and Associates

WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
ãWhalen & Associates, Inc. - 1 - Evansville Economic Development Project
Evansville Economic Development Project
Focus Groups Report
Prepared by:
Whalen & Associates, Inc.
September 10, 2007
www.whalen.com
judy@whalen.com
608-455-2090
15626 West Holt Road
Brooklyn, WI 53521
6084552090
Fax: 6084552087
Email: judy@whalen.com
www.whalen.com
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 2 conomic Development Project
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS........................................................................... 2
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY......................................................................... 4
BACKGROUND ................................................................................... 4
KEY FINDINGS ................................................................................... 5
FACILITATOR OBSERVATIONS ............................................................. 7
FOCUS GROUPS.................................................................................... 9
FOCUS GROUP: AGRIBUSINESS .................................................................... 9
FOCUS GROUP: CONSTRUCTION ................................................................. 12
FOCUS GROUP: MANUFACTURERS............................................................... 18
FOCUS GROUP: RETAILERS ....................................................................... 21
FOCUS GROUP: SERVICE .......................................................................... 26
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 3 conomic Development Project
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 4 conomic Development Project
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
BACKGROUND
Five Focus Groups were conducted on August 27-28, 2007 as the first
phase of the Evansville Economic Development Project. The purpose for
conducting the focus groups was:
§ To gather information that would provide a preliminary insight into
the major issues facing the City in regards to economic
development.
§ To create awareness of the City’s commitment to economic
development.
§ To gather ideas and assess interest in an Economic Development
Summit.
A list of invitees was developed by a planning team consisting of Mayor
Sandy Decker, City Administrator Dan Wietecha, Chamber Promotional
Director Bridgit Larsen, and Judy Whalen, Project Facilitator. The team
first identified five major categories of business that are in the greater
Evansville area. The categories include: Agribusiness,
Construction/Development, Retail, Manufacturing and Service. Then
individuals representing each category were identified. Developing diversity
in each category was a top priority. The Mayor sent a letter to each of the
60 people on the list. Of the 60 invitees, 39 responded YES, they would
participate. Sixteen people responded NO, they were unable to participate.
However, four indicated they were willing to be interviewed by phone.
And five did not respond.
A total of 26 people actually showed up to participate in the focus groups.
Unforeseen work conflicts and weather-related issues prevented others from
attending. The strong YES response from 39 of the invitees to the Mayor’s
invitation is an indication that economic development is a top priority for
the individuals who were invited.
Each focus group was asked the same set of questions. The questions
include:
1. How do you define economic development?
2. What kinds of businesses would you like to see Evansville attract?
a. What new businesses does your business need in order to
grow?
b. What new businesses do you personally want to see in
Evansville and why?
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 5 conomic Development Project
3. What can the City or the Chamber do to facilitate the growth of your
business?
4. What resources would you look for when selecting a community for
your business or what resources do you need to make your business
successful?
5. Is there a trend in your industry that the City or Chamber should
know about to take advantage of or be prepared to address?
6. We are planning to get input from the community by sponsoring a
community-wide summit for the development of the overall
Economic Development Plan. It will be a facilitated session. The
purpose of the summit is to draw out ideas and comments from the
participants and identify key elements to be considered in the
development of the overall Economic Development Plan
a. If you were charged with planning the event, what factors
should be considered and what ideas would you like to offer?
b. Who should be invited? ex. City Council, Townships Chairs,
County reps, residents, all business people, farming
community
c. Would you attend the Summit? YES NO
7. Are there other roadblocks to the growth of your business that the
City or Chamber could help you address, such as lack of a skilled
workforce?
KEY FINDINGS
While each focus group was conducted individually, there are common
themes that were voiced in two or more groups. These include:
§ Workforce Development
▬ More highly skilled workforce: There is a need for workers
who have sound technical training and good math, reading and
interpersonal skills. Specialized manufacturing equipment needs
people who can not only operate the equipment effectively, but
also participate in the metrics measurements that play a
significant role in quality, efficiency and on-time deliveries.
Example of skills needed: Lab skills, mechanical controls, etc.
▬ Work ethic: There is a need for workers who have the “right
attitude” and are willing to work and who consistently report for
work.
§ Promotion of Evansville
▬ Marketing, PR, Advertising: There is a need to promote:
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©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 6 conomic Development Project
1. The businesses that are already in Evansville.
2. Evansville as a good place to locate/conduct business.
3. Existing businesses to each other (B2B).
4. Existing businesses to the residents.
5. Evansville to the greater area.
§ Better Communication, Collaboration and Cooperation
▬ Better communication, collaboration and cooperation are needed
throughout the area. Specific areas identified include:
1. Existing businesses and City Hall.
2. The City with the surrounding townships boards.
3. Businesses exploring Evansville as a possible site.
4. Businesses to each other.
5. Businesses and residents especially regarding the impact
of local businesses on the local economy and school
district and the need for residents to support local
businesses.
6. Keep the process of communication/interaction simple.
▬ An awareness of the economic impact that local businesses have
on the community and the volume of their financial contributions
to support the efforts of community organizations and the school
district.
§ Balance
▬ A respect for and understanding of the need to balance the
responsibilities of local government for public health, safety and
welfare of the residents with the needs of local businesses that
provide an economic vitality for the community.
§ Definition of Economic Development
▬ Economic development is creating the right environment that:
1. Keeps the current businesses strong.
2. Makes Evansville and the surrounding area an attractive
location for new businesses.
3. Creates new jobs so people can make a livable wage
within the community.
4. Provides for the needs of the residents and businesses.
5. Draws non-residents to the area
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 7 conomic Development Project
§ Become a Destination
▬ The Evansville area needs to determine how to become a
“destination” so non-residents travel to it for its unique
offerings. Potential “destination” draws could be: specialty
shops such as arts, crafts, and unique restaurants or outdoor
recreational activities that attract users in both summer and
winter, ex. toboggan/tubing hill that charges admission, golf,
and ATV course.
§ Develop an inventory of current business
▬ Gain a thorough understanding of the current businesses, the
type of vendors they use and the needs they have. Analyze the
network of businesses and their vendors to identify opportunities
to attract needed businesses to support existing businesses.
§ Major Priority
▬ Bring industry and businesses to the area that are able to create
jobs that pay a livable wage so people can work and shop here.
▬ Avoid becoming a bedroom community.
§ Immediate Needs
▬ Support of local residents to shop locally.
▬ Meeting rooms that can accommodate 20-40 people or more for
offsite training, meetings, etc.
▬ Hotel to house vendors, sales forces, etc.
§ Overall Interest in the Summit.
▬ There is resounding interest in participation in an Economic
Development Summit. The focus group participants were
grateful that the Economic Development Committee and the City
are focusing on economic development.
FACILITATOR OBSERVATIONS
The following items are the personal observations of the facilitator and are
offered to provide an insight into the participants’ interaction and reactions.
§ Delighted to be invited: The participants were please to have been invited
and pleased the Economic Development Committee, the City Council and
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©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 8 conomic Development Project
Mayor approved the project. They are encouraged to see the commitment
to explore the topic and develop an economic development plan.
§ Participants in each focus group did not know one another. Considering
the size of Evansville, this is surprising. It is also an indication that
there have not been opportunities for business owners to get together,
build relationships and explore how they could help each others’
businesses grow.
§ Synergies developed almost spontaneously: As focus group participants
explained the different facets of their businesses, other participants
began to make connections of how their businesses could interact and
benefit each other. At least eight new opportunities surfaced for
participants simply by exchanging information about their businesses
needs and services.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 9 conomic Development Project
FOCUS GROUPS
FOCUS GROUP: AGRIBUSINESS
Date: August 27, 2007
Individuals attending: Ed Larson, Gordy Andrew, John Gishnock, Steve
Pincus, Ken Reese
1. How do you define economic development?
§ To get more product with the same amount of effort and also manage
more complexity.
§ Diversify to meet more needs, and look for new venues and new market
opportunities. Don’t let a community or business stagnate
§ Realizing that a community needs to change with the times.
§ Make more revenue/acre as well as thinking about the future.
§ Work with others to increase production and resources to help each
other.
2. What kinds of businesses would you like to see Evansville attract?
a. What new businesses does your business need in order to grow?
§ Landline-based fast Internet service
§ Cheaper and more satellite internet service
§ Soybean crusher and biodiesel plant will be beneficial to the economics
§ Always need to have good local vets, feed and fertilizer suppliers
§ Always need a good local hardware store in a community
§ Need a good compost company/supplier
§ Farmers need a disposal system for manure
§ A motel for business people who are visiting local businesses
§ More restaurants
§ Two additional types of agri-related businesses – an ethanol plant and
cellulose ethanol plant. The soybean crusher plant could also provide
several types of products: oil, meal and glycerin. These types of
interrelated industries could add jobs and create more economic
development opportunities for Evansville in the future.
b. What new businesses do you personally want to see in Evansville and
why?
§ The New York Times – no place to buy a copy every day.
§ Retail stores on the west side of Evansville - grocery, drug store, gas
station, convenience mart.
§ Farm and Fleet type of store
§ More leisure-related businesses
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 10 conomic Development Project
§ The biodiesel industry will have real growth implications for the
community
§ Indoor swimming pool facility and/or perhaps a bowling alley
§ Indoor ice skating rink
3. What can the City or the Chamber do to facilitate the growth of your
business?
§ Provide a package of information to help a new business find services
they need as they start up such as: names of attorneys, accountants,
printers, Internet services, and local suppliers for their particular
business needs, office supplies.
§ More public relations to promote agribusinesses to each other and in the
area.
§ Promote Evansville as a place with good schools because that will bring
in new people and businesses.
§ Produce and place articles in the paper by farmers that help people
understand their business and the “farmer’s calendar” for crop
plantings, reaping, etc.
§ Create new special days to highlight and feature the farming community
– Farm Day or CSA Days
§ Need more classes in high school related to farming, organic farming,
etc.
4. What resources would you look for when selecting a community for
your business or what resources do you need to make your business
successful?
§ Good schools
§ Friendly ordinances to help new business growth. Now there is too
much obstruction
§ to new dairy farms. Ex. – new dairy start-ups were stopped and stonewalled
because of tree-huggers who stood in the way of farms with 30-
50 cows and others who are against any farms with 300-400 cows, even
though large scale operations is the trend in agribusiness.
§ Stop small, nuisance complaints from new people who create a problem
because they don’t understand the bigger issues and needs of
agribusiness.
§ Help new people who want the rural atmosphere understand the role of
farming in this rural environment.
§ More and better communication between all people – farmers and
newcomers.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 11 conomic Development Project
NOTE: An economic development plan should address: zoning,
regulations and annexation issues (as well as better communication and
education methods.)
5. Is there a trend in your industry that the City or the Chamber should
know about to take advantage of or be prepared to address?
§ Local schools are beginning to use more locally grown produce and that
will affect keeping business money in the area.
§ More organic produce and natural plants – using no herbicides
§ Interest in starting a local food co-op in town
§ The town could help teach about farmland preservation or develop an
awareness campaign
§ Begin addressing the extra-territorial powers and what that means to get
people to cooperate in surrounding townships.
§ Need to establish ways to cluster housing vs. farm land, re: Town of
Dunn – “development rights.”
Note: Evansville is looking at economic development while townships
around here want to stop growth – needs to be addressed.
6. We are planning to get input from the community by sponsoring a
summit. It will be a facilitated session. The purpose of the summit is to
draw out ideas and comments from the participants and identify key
elements to be considered in the development of the overall Economic
Development Plan:
a. If you were charged with planning the event, what factors should be
considered and what ideas would you like to offer?
§ Advertising of all kinds – posters, ads, banner, notices in the paper
§ Food
§ Need a catchy title that makes everyone want to come because it’s the
“in thing” to do.
§ Need an interesting and exciting speaker/celebrity at the event to draw
audience to the event.
§ A structure for the event to get everyone involved – small groups where
they can speak out about what they would like to see changed and be
comfortable doing so
§ Select topics so people could choose the group discussion they want to
be in.
§ Select topics could include: A. What ways does Evansville need to
grow? B. What kinds of businesses do I need personally?
§ Township Boards around Evansville need to be invited.
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©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 12 conomic Development Project
§ Need to publish a summary of the results from the Summit.
§ Call it Evansville Regional Summit to show it’s a regional event.
§ Maybe one group could be for people who don’t want any change – they
could tell everyone why and what really worries them about change in
the community.
§ The redevelopment of central Evansville needs to be addressed. Many
empty buildings and we need to get things jump started.
§ Parking is an issue that needs to be discussed.
§ We need a “theme” for the redevelopment of Evansville. We need to
make it a place to want to visit to shop. We need to become a
“destination” to draw in visitors and provide more economic
opportunities for shop owners too.
b. Who should be invited?
§ Everyone in Evansville and surrounding Townships
c. Would you attend the Summit? YES 4+ No: 1
§ Depends upon schedule
7. Are there other roadblocks to the growth of your business that the City
or Chamber could help you address, such as lack of a skilled
workforce?
§ We need to have a broader view of the area around here to be
developed. There needs to be a more organized way to develop the
area.
§ We need to make sure that in development of land that farmers get a
fair price for their property. Should be a way to have “development
rights” factored in.
§ The City Council and Township Boards need to change their way of
thinking.
§ Need more grassroots groundswell to push politicians to get the crusher
plant - letter campaign to the Governor and Senators would help.
FOCUS GROUP: CONSTRUCTION
Date: August 27, 2007 4 – 6 p.m.
Individuals attending: Todd Kaehler, Mike Klassy, Lori Allen, Corey
Schwenn, Rick Heacox, John Morning, Rich Modaff,
Tim Magee
1. How do you define economic development?
§ Growing the total of what is produced and services for consumers --
growing the total value in the area.
§ Business growth and offering jobs to the community overall.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 13 conomic Development Project
§ Business, commercial, residential interests are intertwined and
interdependent. They need to work together and collaborate to
improve the quality of life for residents and the business environment.
2. What kinds of businesses would you like to see Evansville attract?
a. What new businesses does your business need in order to grow?
§ A new gym open 24/7. Something the residents will like but will also
bring in construction jobs.
§ Value added businesses that can pay well, export products, bring
knowledge-base to the community and can also provide construction
jobs.
§ Manufacturing businesses that bring in new people who buy new homes
and buy products from retail.
§ Businesses like machine-tool companies, bio-tech and high tech. In
addition, large wholesaler and distributors are good employers.
§ New hotel.
§ New banks and retail stores.
§ Develop thriving trades businesses that restore and redo old buildings
downtown.
§ Creative arts businesses.
§ Find companion businesses that supply or work with the businesses we
already have here and then solicit them to move here.
§ Some big employers.
b. What new businesses do you personally want to see in Evansville and
why?
(Incorporated in other answers)
3. What can the City or the Chamber do to facilitate the growth of your
business?
§ Determine who is going to be the front persons to draw in more
businesses because the first contacts are very important in attracting
new businesses.
§ Inventory what businesses we have in Evansville and then determine
what we need and why we need them. Then go after those businesses
to fill the holes.
§ Add to the industrial and commercial base because they help reduce
taxes.
§ City Hall can try NOT to kill deals and turn off new business ventures.
They often just give potential businesses a form and tell them to show
up for a meeting. That is no way to welcome and bring new businesses
to the City.
§ Need a committee outside of government who works on an Economic
Development plan, solicits new businesses to move to Evansville, helps
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©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 14 conomic Development Project
them work through local regulations and then welcomes them and
provides resources as members of the business community.
§ The City Administrator needs to be strong on development of the town
and its business community.
§ The Economic Development Committee and the City should be
offering all kinds of incentives because there is plenty of competition
out there with other towns/cities.
§ Important to have a strong Economic Development Plan and good
people involved because it’s a hard thing to do.
§ Find out what Evansville is “outsourcing” to other places in the state
and region and try to get it done here in Evansville instead. This
would keep dollars here and bring in more jobs and help our economy
grow.
§ We need to improve market penetration and do more business locally
rather than in some other town where our people work.
§ Chamber should help by doing a marketing campaign.
§ Chamber members could be doing more to welcome in other businesses
too. Right now only 25% of the members participate in a welcome
package.
§ Help change the way residents do business. People move to town
because they like some of the attributes they find in this town. Find
and recognize these attributes but also add to the residents’ awareness
of what is in town and why Evansville is special.
§ Help keep businesses successful because they contribute to the tax base
which can keep taxes lower for the residents.
§ New residents who move here because of the schools need to
understand that the businesses also support their schools and they
should help support the businesses in return.
§ We’re aware it takes years to change the attitudes and business climate.
4. What resources would you look for when selecting a community for
your business or what resources do you need to make your business
successful?
§ The banking business looks for good growth in a community –
commercial and residential. We don’t export or import anything. We
want to capture a fair share of the potential customers in the
community. We also look for a good infrastructure – water,
electricity, gas, rail service, and proximity to highways – everything
that industries will be interested in. We work to keep the customers we
have and also try to capture a piece of the market share.
§ New growth/new construction has to be there to stay successful.
§ More people in new construction rather than into repairs/remodels.
§ Available lots and space to build and low interest rates
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§ Good infrastructure.
§ Any kind of growth is going to have a positive impact on other parts of
the economy. It has a ripple affect across the community.
Question by facilitator – If we create more new jobs will there be housing
available in Evansville?
§ Government plays a big part -- it tends to be restrictive. We need them
to be more flexible with building houses when they’re needed.
§ Since we now have about 60% of the residents who commute out of
here every day, available housing is not an issue at this point.
§ Market forces will move the market demand for houses and we have
lots available in town.
§ Yes, if people can handle the taxes -- it’s a big factor.
5. Is there a trend in your industry that the City or the Chamber should
know about to take advantage of or be prepared to address?
§ High property taxes in town are causing potential buyers to look
elsewhere.
§ Regulation on size of homes might be smart – we don’t need great big
houses.
§ There is a demand for the entry level homes, so don’t restrict or stop #
of building permits.
§ City doesn’t need 20% of homes to be handicapped accessible.
Ridiculous idea.
§ City needs to make sure there are a variety of home sizes and types of
businesses to provide services to residents and keep their dollars here
in Evansville.
NOTE: - City Council needs to take into account the various kinds of businesses that
may be needed by a variety of residents (ages, # in households, etc.) and their specific
needs.
6. We are planning to get input from the community by sponsoring a
summit. It will be a facilitated session. The purpose of the summit is to
draw out ideas and comments from the participants and identify key
elements to be considered in the development of the overall Economic
Development Plan:
a. If you were charged with planning the event, what factors should be
considered and what ideas would you like to offer?
§ Before a summit -- find out the inventory of what businesses we have
in town to use that information at the summit.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 16 conomic Development Project
§ Determine available property/areas that you can offer for economic
development.
§ Show the facts about the real contribution of what businesses provide to
the community – including salaries and taxes, types of products and
services, all revenue.
§ Help residents and others understand the big economic engine and the
impact that businesses have on Evansville as a whole.
§ Help create business opportunities internally by helping each other.
§ Find out who is important in town that you do business with and make
sure you find ways to keep them here.
§ Break out the Summit attendees into small groups so people get a
chance to talk.
§ Provide attendees a packet of information about the basic economics
about Evansville ahead of time so that residents can review and think
about them and prepare questions.
§ Chamber can provide some statistics that could be used.
§ Post information on city Web site, and send out information online.
§ Don’t rush the process of doing a summit.
§ People need to feel it was well worth their time and energy to come to
the summit, that they are part of the process, and are helping make
important decisions for their future.
§ People need to be well informed ahead of time.
§ Find out how big is the economic engine here in Evansville and the
economic footprint already here in Evansville. Then try to determine
what it would take to grow it even just 10%.
§ Creating more business growth and money on deposit in local banks in
Evansville are necessities in helping the City grow.
§ Have to do this summit right the first time. May want to move the date
back to early next year.
§ Get more people involved in the planning and implementation process
rather than just 3-4 people and the Mayor.
§ Get businesses together first in a summit instead of going right out to
the community. Maybe not 6 hours in a summit either. That’s too
long.
§ Maybe the first hour or so should be devoted to providing information
about the current economic situation in Evansville. You could then
provide some ideas about ways to help change the situation and ask the
attendees to break out into smaller groups and brainstorm methods to
help make change happen.
NOTE: Common vision and common goal needs to be developed for people who live
here.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 17 conomic Development Project
NOTE: JW to the group -- The Mayor wants business people talking to each other to
get synergy going and generate some of their own economic growth internally here in
Evansville.
b. Who should be invited? Construction people, developers, agriculture,
retail, services. All business people in the area.
c. Would you attend the Summit? YES: All
7. Are there other roadblocks to the growth of your business that the City
or Chamber could help you address, such as lack of a skilled
workforce?
§ Skilled trades people
§ Available land
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 18 conomic Development Project
FOCUS GROUP: MANUFACTURERS
Date: August 28, 2007
Individuals attending: Otto Knottnerus, Sandy Sayarath, Ken Wahlin, Mike
Robinson
1. How do you define economic development?
§ An environment that is conducive to running a business. Not a lot of
regulatory roadblocks and a helpful attitude from people who provide
the services.
§ Creating an environment that produces a value-added proposition.
§ A labor pool that has good math, reading, and interpersonal skills is
extremely useful in economic development. We need an educated
workforce.
§ Need good work ethics and attitudes.
§ Need more dedicated employees.
§ The geography is a factor – the proximity to other industries and
communities.
§ Good infrastructure (3 phase power) helps economic development
§ Logistics is a big part – good roads and being near a railroad system.
Note: Encourage WI Southern to come to Evansville to help biodiesel and other
businesses here to transport and receive products.
2. What kinds of businesses would you like to see Evansville attract?
a. What new businesses does your business need in order to grow?
§ Heating and air conditioning businesses
§ Tool and die shops with reasonably skilled people (have to go to Beloit
now).
§ Hotel – for business people and sales reps. Also need conference
rooms for meetings.
§ Employment agency for entry level/skilled people (like Janesville and
Madison).
§ Unique types of business(s) that bring in and attract people to
Evansville.
§ Expansion of some of the businesses we already have – more hardware
stores, auto parts, grocery stores.
b. What new businesses do you personally want to see in Evansville and
why?
§ Needs a feed store close by and ag implement dealer.
§ Reception hall for parties, weddings, etc.
§ Build a toboggan hill and activity area near the lake in Evansville.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 19 conomic Development Project
3. What can the City or the Chamber do to facilitate the growth of your
business?
§ They should come up with a “new business” package. Information that
helps new businesses, i.e. information about City Hall regulations and
other useful information about doing business in the City.
§ Provide good access to people in City Hall to potential businesses.
Maybe use TIF districts more to encourage new businesses to come to
Evansville. (It was the “key” for the biodiesel business to decide to
come to Evansville.)
§ Need to actively solicit new businesses to come to Evansville. Other
towns are soliciting our businesses all the time.
§ Help change the tax climate and regulatory climate -- not very
conducive to business.
§ Evansville needs to expand their sewer and waste water services before
they are maxed out and new businesses will be discouraged from
coming here.
§ Chamber should bring in speakers with unique and specialty experience
to help local businesses grow. Subjects such as Web development,
HR, networking, financing, etc. might be helpful.
§ The Chamber could help bring in people to teach computer skills to
employers and employees.
§ Help get local people trained to become better and future leaders in the
community.
§ Keep the business process simple with the City.
§ Keep the business community involved in local tax and regulatory
issues so they are not surprised.
4. What resources would you look for when selecting a community for
your business or what resources do you need to make your business
successful?
§ We need good logistics and infrastructure (railroad) to make our
company successful. Offering a TIF is also important. A large labor
pool is not necessary for their company.
§ Good roads and access to major highways is important.
§ Skilled workforce, roads, and close proximity to suppliers and
customer base.
§ Phone and Internet service to people around the globe.
§ Workforce, roads, centrally located to their customers.
§ Good police protection.
5. Is there a trend in your industry that the City or the Chamber should
know about to take advantage of or be prepared to address?
§ Need more highly skilled employees.
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©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 20 conomic Development Project
§ Educate our students and young people about good work ethics. (Don’t
think the schools and parents are doing a good job.)
§ Need more technically skilled labor such as workers for labs, controls,
chemical and electrical jobs.
§ Evansville might look at opening a satellite facility from Blackhawk
Tech for training skilled workers
6. We are planning to get input from the community by sponsoring a
summit. It will be a facilitated session. The purpose of the summit is to
draw out ideas and comments from the participants and identify key
elements to be considered in the development of the overall Economic
Development Plan.
a. If you were charged with planning the event, what factors should be
considered and what ideas would you like to offer?
§ Get the right people. Need a good mix of people with positive and
constructive attitudes, not just whining people who complain about
everything.
§ Determine the end goal -- is it to create a vision or roll out a vision?
Then figure out how best to get buy-in from the business and
residential communities.
§ Have small groups come up with the vision statement, present to a
larger group for their feedback.
§ Since there is already some positive sentiment and support for
economic development (part of the Smart Growth Plan) then this should
be billed as part of that Plan to the community.
§ Since the biodiesel business fits right into Evansville’s Smart Growth
Plan it really facilitated locating that new business in Evansville.
Therefore the City was very open to the biodiesel business. (NOTE:
Could be used as an example at the Summit?).
§ Determine first the kinds of businesses that relate to the Smart Growth
Plan and illustrate that information at the summit.
§ Explain how new types of business will also bring in families who will
live, shop and work here in Evansville and provide the town with
various types of skilled workforce and better tax base.
§ Get people to consider the size and types of businesses that might work
here in Evansville, such as: smaller companies, rather than a Mayo
Clinic, light mfg., biotech, high tech. Also should talk about how a
soybean crusher plant would help the farming community and a cogenerating
power facility and a glycerin production business would be
good companion companies.
§ Should find ways to try to get people (accountants, lawyers) who live
in Madison to start a business in Evansville.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 21 conomic Development Project
§ Find a way to have people write down their ideas. Keep the groups in
order
§ Provide information ahead of time to the attendees.
§ Be prepared and don’t fashion the agenda at the Summit.
§ These focus groups should help put the plan together for the summit
and start presenting information and getting buy-in from the residents.
NOTE: Also put together several resident-only focus groups now to help put together
a comprehensive plan of Economic Development. Want constructive ideas and initial
Economic Development planning to come out of the Summit
b. Who should be invited? It should be only businesses, after residents
have been heard from in surveys and/focus groups.
c. Would you attend the Summit? YES: 3 NO: 1
7. Are there other roadblocks to the growth of your business that the City
or Chamber could help you address, such as lack of a skilled
workforce?
§ The construction has been a problem for many businesses.
§ The simpler the better when interfacing with the government. We need
clear and concise language, information, and good treatment/service by
staff to business owners.
§ More resources and help by the City staff – i.e. they had an oil drum to
dispose of and the city staff had no idea what to do or where to send
them for assistance, even the waste people had no idea. Finally the
local co-op helped them.
§ Lack of good communication between the City and businesses.
FOCUS GROUP: RETAILERS
Date: August 28, 2007
Individuals attending: Dave Warren, Shelly Meredith, Jane Pierce, Ben
Ladick, Brad Goodspeed,
1. How do you define economic development?
§ Have a plan for the future
§ A balance between government and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs try
to make money while government has to make sure things run
smoothly -- it’s a balancing act between the two.
§ Determining what the community needs/wants and then developing a
strategy to get those businesses and activities into the community.
§ A way to bring in more business to add to those already here. Right
now there is no real reason to come to Evansville to shop or do
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 22 conomic Development Project
business. No real draw here. The 70’s party on July 4th brought in
some visitors, but on Labor Day weekend everyone leaves town.
People need a real reason to come here.
§ Many residents work in Madison/Janesville and have gotten into the
habit of shopping there instead of shopping here and supporting the
local businesses. We need to find a way to get our residents to do
business in town.
§ The Chamber has always discussed this problem and how it affects
every business in town but hasn’t been able to change it.
§ Not just maintain a business – be able to grow it! For 20 years I’ve
just maintained my business. The City’s growth has helped me to
maintain, but not to grow my business.
§ Provide various ways to promote businesses besides just advertising in
the local paper.
§ Get people to read their local papers, walk the streets, shop in the local
stores – not shop where they work and then come home and only mow
their lawns.
Note: The % of people moving in is larger than the rate of business growth.
And residents seem to have habits that are hard to change. They continue to
buy products and use services closer to where they work during the day and
also because Evansville doesn’t have a lot of things to offer.
2. What kinds of businesses would you like to see Evansville attract?
a. What new businesses does your business need in order to grow?
§ More specialty and home décor shops.
§ Use the history of Evansville as a way to draw in visitors.
§ People want to see something unique here in downtown Evansville.
§
b. What new businesses do you personally want to see in Evansville and
why?
§ Specialty and unique shops
§ Health care facilities or other businesses that bring in women workers
who shop at our stores during the day and after work.
§ A bridal shop might draw people.
§ More good restaurants.
§ An ATV business. This would be something different and people
would spend a lot of money to come here and play. It would bring in
money and more business to the town. The ATV business in Green
County brought in $11 million last year to the county. ATV people
often spend $20/$30 per person, rather than bicyclists who spend
money for a bottle of water. The Lake Leota area has a path and it
would also give riders access to other businesses in town and the park
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 23 conomic Development Project
store. Money could be used to help restore the lake. (Unfortunately,
the tree huggers would probably be against it.)
§ A campground -- like around Milton.
§ A movie theater and/or a place for community plays.
§ Something unique that draws people and gets them to go to shops and
restaurants while they’re here.
NOTE: We need to become a summer/fall/winter “destination” to bring in visitors
interested in a unique experience that only Evansville can offer them.
3. What can the City or the Chamber do to facilitate the growth of your
business?
§ The city needs to help keep the present businesses strong. (The city
allowed many others to obtain a liquor/beer license which diluted his
business after he spent a lot of money to support his license.).
§ The City Council is awful to business people. They think that
businesses can also fund all kinds of things to help the residents when
the businesses are really struggling.
§ Understand that the bigger businesses don’t have a lot of money – they
have employees, overhead and many expenses too to just stay in
business.
§ Maybe the people from these other factions need to meet with the
Chamber members and hear their issues.
§ The City can stop demanding that businesses add things around their
buildings that are ridiculous and expensive for the business owner and
in most cases don’t really add to the environment or anything else.
§ The city needs to be more “business friendly” and really understand
what it takes to run a business and the taxes that a business creates for
the good of the community.
§ The city needs to do what’s good for business owners and help them
build their business in various ways.
§ Understand that many businesses are barely staying afloat and not
making any profit.
§ Have some business people on the City Council who understand what it
takes to run a business.
§ Business people should be encouraged to participate on the City
Council, instead of being treated negatively or risking a decline in their
business.
§ The City council doesn’t listen to businesses. They have their own
agenda, which is to keep this a sleepy little town, and they also have
the power to run you out of business.
§ The City needs to stop mandating the amount of “green space” around
companies.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 24 conomic Development Project
§ Not demand that costly curb and gutters be put in the middle of a
parking lot and build sidewalks that go nowhere. Their rules are often
unnecessary and difficult for businesses to pay for.
NOTE: Group said they are looking forward to end of the construction around town
so people will come back to town to shop more. They think the City Council really
needs to better understand the economic impact of every decision they make related
to businesses.
Question by facilitator: Will the new brick street and appearance of the new street
bring something special to the town?
§ After it’s done, maybe some other retailers will open up. It will create
some quaintness.
§ Hope that businesses will be allowed to have new and bigger signage –
that’s a real problem downtown. Most signage now is way too small.
§ It’s a real balancing act -- think some of the residents want the
downtown to blend in and not really show there are viable, active
businesses. They don’t want change or visitors. They want to stay a
sleepy town.
Question – Is there a way for business owners to have their own special group?
§ The Chamber is supposed to be the spokesperson for all businesses in
the area.
4. What resources would you look for when selecting a community for
your business or what resources do you need to make your business
successful?
§ When there is long-term construction it’s too tough to start a new
business, to buy inventory and rent shops, so that probably has deterred
new retail shops from opening here.
§ There needs to be some real incentives for retailers to open a shop or
start up a business in this town.
§ A traffic pattern that goes through downtown instead of bypassing it.
§ We need to give people a reason(s) to stop in our town. Provide a
unique experience or theme to draw people to our town.
5. Is there a trend in your industry that the City or the Chamber should
know about to take advantage of or be prepared to address?
§ If we don’t start getting more customers soon, we won’t be able to
exist.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 25 conomic Development Project
§ We are evolving more and more into a bedroom community. People
want to keep this a quaint town with just residents and a few businesses
and she doesn’t like how it’s evolving.
§ Residential growth will be stopped too if the City mandates the 20%
handicap housing regulation. It’s totally ridiculous and expensive.
§ The City Council should be going out and talking to people and
business owners and learning what is really happening and needed in
Evansville. The City Council members don’t have an economic
development background or business experience.
§ The City Council has been instrumental in closing down businesses or
causing others not to open.
§ Our other business location is supporting the Evansville facility.
§ The school district and staff should also be encouraged to do business
in town since a lot of money from the business community is given to
support their activities.
6. We are planning to get input from the community by sponsoring a
summit. It will be a facilitated session. The purpose of the summit is to
draw out ideas and comments from the participants and identify key
elements to be considered in the development of the overall Economic
Development Plan.
a. If you were charged with planning the event, what factors should be
considered and what ideas would you like to offer?
§ Offer food
§ Really inspire people to come and give them some hope and
reassurance that something will happen afterwards. Need to convey
that what they say will be taken seriously.
§ City Council people HAVE to be there and really listen. Leave their
agendas at the door and come with open minds.
§ People have to be reassured that what they say can be done privately.
§ Send out or do surveys and talk to people when they come out of
stores.
§ Offer child care.
§ Maybe do more one-on-ones instead of a large group.
§ Inform the residents that the businesses are really having a tough time.
They need to be educated about what it’s like to try and do business in
this town. They need to better understand business problems and
issues.
§ Town people need to understand that the taxes that businesses provide
support the town as a whole.
§ Find other ways to promote the Summit since advertising in local paper
isn’t very effective.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 26 conomic Development Project
NOTE: Other ways to promote what’s going on in Evansville and invite people to
the Summit might include: sending information through the utility bills, maybe a
directly personalized mailing from the Mayor to everyone, use the City’s and
Towns’ Web sites and promote that, etc. In the future, possibly use a local access
TV channel to spread information to all residents and businesses.
b. Who should be invited? Everyone
c. Would you attend the Summit? YES: All
7. Are there other roadblocks to the growth of your business that the City
or Chamber could help you address, such as lack of a skilled
workforce?
§ The biggest thing is to change the attitude that is pervasive in this
town. We’re not a sleepy little town. We have some new companies
coming into town and we need to step up and out.
§ We don’t know everyone anymore. Need better networking and
communication.
§ People love the houses, but not the taxes which are way too high.
§ Need larger tax base spread across businesses and residents so we can
be a viable and healthy community – to live and to work in.
FOCUS GROUP: SERVICE
Date: August 28, 2007
Individuals attending: Cliff Woolever, PJ Spears, Rebecca DeMarb, Alex
Tort, Jane McGuire
1. How do you define economic development?
§ To make the right changes to make the business community even
better: For example: the brick street to match the buildings. Action
like that helps economic development in the long run. Keep your
traditions but modernize and integrate images and the look of the
downtown.
§ A bustling downtown with shops/retail/restaurants and other types of
businesses to make it viable and exciting.
§ Look at the needs of the community and determine where there are
gaps. Make wise decisions to fill those gaps. Look at Smart Growth
plan, but also determine whether or not you have the number and types
of businesses to keep your community economically healthy.
§ Provide enough services to the residents.
§ Evansville is projected to grow more than Stoughton in next 5 years so
there is a lot of planning that needs to be done so it’s done right.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 27 conomic Development Project
§ Evansville is known as a nice town to raise kids and it has good
schools. People and kids feel safer here than in other cities around
here.
2. What kinds of businesses would you like to see Evansville attract?
a. What new businesses does your business need in order to grow?
§ We could use more families, older residents since we’re in the nursing
and assisted care business.
§ More assisted care and in-home services, and Hospice.
§ Incorporate senior center into other needs here in the community – like
a community center perhaps.
§ Any kind of business is good business for us. A couple more
institutional clients like the nursing home would be great.
b. What new businesses do you personally want to see in Evansville and
why?
§ Classes to take my young child to – like tumbling, dance, an inside
pool, a branch of the Y
§ More restaurants and shops
§ Banquet facilities and meeting rooms
§ Senior Center and Community Center
§ Business and job opportunities for employees’ spouses
§ Adult classes
§ Ways to strengthen the bond between the schools and businesses
§ Health care education for parents, children and seniors
§ Some retail stores that sell clothing
§ Wine store
§ Good butcher and baker
§ Theater
§ Venues that can offer live music and entertainment to residents and
visitors
§ More activities for youth, particularly 12-15 yr olds who have little to
do. Ideas might include indoor ice skating, arcade, a community
center to provide kids activities during the day and adults at night.
§ Need a place to offer lessons in music, art, dance, theater, etc. Local
artists could give lessons to children and adults.
3. What can the City or the Chamber do to facilitate the growth of your
business?
§ Do more advertising by Chamber to promote businesses around this
area.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 28 conomic Development Project
4. What resources would you look for when selecting a community for
your business or what resources do you need to make your business
successful?
5. Is there a trend in your industry that the City or the Chamber should
know about to take advantage of or be prepared to address?
§ Be preparing and planning for the needs of the baby boomers. They
will need and want resources of all kinds: more surgeons, living
accommodations, athletic facilities, health education, personal services,
etc.
§ Adult (senior) housing has to relate to the economics in a community.
§ Realize the difference that people pay for services here vs. in Madison
for the same service, i.e., haircutting, etc. We need to change the
appearance that services done in Evansville are by less experienced
people.
§ Finding niches for our business so we can offer a different set of
services than our competition.
§ By providing high quality product and service he hopes to bring in
business from around the area based on word of mouth reputation.
Doesn’t do much advertising because it keeps his prices down for his
customers.
§ Wellness programs are getting to be huge. Insurance companies are
really looking at how employers are taking care of their employees.
§ Provide healthy outdoor activities to make the community healthier
overall.
§ Ex. Stoughton is looking at a business/healthcare/community coalition
to make healthy programs more prevalent and the new athletic center in
Stoughton is providing indoor walking paths for all ages and free for
seniors.
6. We are planning to get input from the community by sponsoring a
summit. It will be a facilitated session. The purpose of the summit is to
draw out ideas and comments from the participants and identify key
elements to be considered in the development of the overall Economic
Development Plan:
a. If you were charged with planning the event, what factors should be
considered and what ideas would you like to offer?
§ Growth of certain industries and how that could be helpful in planning.
§ Providing more services in town so residents and workers don’t have to
shop out of town all the time.
§ Develop better communication between city and business groups.
§ Bring in resources from universities and Blackhawk Tech to help with
programming and economic development planning.
▲ _______________________________________________________________WHALEN & ASSOCIATES, INC.
©Whalen & Associates, Inc. Evansville E 29 conomic Development Project
§ Provide better communication methods to everyone beyond the local
paper – i.e., use Shoppers, an insert in there about business or from
Chamber. Multi-faceted: Web site, direct mail, inserts in utility bills,
etc.
§ Develop local cable channel to get out news each week.
§ Need all city leaders, county reps and townships boards to be there.
§ Need to put together and present what people want (residents and
businesses).
§ Do a survey ahead of time – use online, telephone and direct mail.
(Smart Growth plan should have a survey that can provide some
information that might be helpful too.)
§ Need to make the summit as positive as possible. Let people know
there is real potential to change attitudes and mindsets in this town.
§ Since Evansville is projected to grow so much in the next 5 years – it’s
exciting that the Mayor and others are planning on doing this to
develop more opportunities for their residents and businesses and
develop a viable economic development plan.
b. Who should be invited? Community civic groups, business leaders,
some public input,
c. Would you attend the Summit? YES: 4 NO: 1
NOTE: If certain parts of the summit pertain to specific types of industry/services –
then participants can come for part of the time to participate in those specific topics.
7. Are there other roadblocks to the growth of your business that the City
or Chamber could help you address, such as lack of a skilled
workforce?
§ Workforce

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