Creating Excitement: Chamber Plays up its Assets

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The Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce has executed several strategies this past year to bring economic development to the region.

Marci Duro, IVAC executive director, recounted some of the activity Thursday evening at the chamber annual dinner at Oak Ridge Golf Club, La Salle.

“We have been working with NIU Center for Governmental Studies to put together a Strategic Doing Plan for the next one to three years,” she said. “It has created excitement and dedicated discussion. I was even able to get one of our railroad contacts to sit on one of the work groups and it has been very good.”

The goal of the groups is to determine the region’s best assets and how to build on them in the next one to three years.

Duro referred to Roleif Loveland’s group, which is focusing on expansion of manufacturing. It has put together a plan to contact local manufacturers that may have excess capacity in their production that could be used by other area manufacturers.

She cited an example. “Maze Nails does galvanizing for themselves and out of the blue someone asked the question, ‘Why galvanize only for us?’ So they went out and landed several more customers and they are now doing galvanizing for them as well, creating a brand new customer base.”

In August, IVAC formed a Hennepin Mega Site committee, Duro continued. Beginning with the 2,000 acres along side of the Arcelor-Mittal Steel mill (LTV), the committee is dividing land into industrial lots and will include existing businesses like Marquis Energy, Washington Mills, Dynegy and others to create a growing industrial park. It will be renamed the Hennepin Industrial Complex. Marketing materials will be generated and a target marketing campaign created.. Along with city officials, the committee has representation from the railroad, utilities and engineers.

In October, IVAC began a mail marketing campaign targeting the plastics industry as it relates to food. Information was sent to 54 companies in five installments over three months. And then phone calls were made in January.

In another marketing campaign, IVAC did an E-blast to more than 300 site selectors. The campaign featured sites from each of the IVAC Communities along with clickable links to take the site selectors directly to IVAC’s economic development page on its website as well as LocationOne Source website.

“We have made a connection with Northern Illinois Corporate Association of Realtors and are investigating a partnership to include our sites and buildings on the commercial sites,” Duro said, “giving us exposure to corporate Realtors, site selectors and corporation executives that may be doing their own search.”

The chamber continues to actively promote sites and buildings.  The year of 2013 brought 26 requests for information for which IVAC submitted 39 site/building proposals. Challenges for meeting the criteria were requirements such as rail, barge service and access, building size of 75,000 to 200,000 square feet with ceiling heights of 20 to 30 feet and special use facilities such as food processing “ready” and cold storage. Of the 26 submitted 10 are still pending.

Incoming Board President

Scott Stavrakas, incoming IVAC board president, said the chamber is entering a difficult time in its history.

“In order to compete as a viable economic development organization in today’s world, we have to take a hard look at everything we do,” he said. “The difficult part of what we are trying to accomplish is balancing what is expected from a typical chamber of commerce and what is expected of an economic development organization.”

Source: News Tribune