HDB aims to be unique
Robert Francis, Guest columnist
Research associated with the I-65 corridor study provided the foundation for the Hartselle Development Board (HDB). With the general direction established, much work remained to structure an effective organization which, from the beginning, was designed to be "success oriented."
First and foremost was to select members dedicated to success. This membership was to be characterized by diverse and pertinent expertise representing a broad spectrum of the community, particularly representing the major entities associated with development (city government, Hartselle Utilities and the chamber of commerce). Equally important was an advisory board to complement and strengthen the organization. Then began the task of preparing the board for accomplishing the mission.
These tasks included incorporation, development of the mission statement and procedures, overall strategy and adoption of a logo exhibiting determination to succeed (all discussed last week). Next, marketing materials and recruitment were addressed. Considerable effort was required to develop marketing materials that were aimed at retail market gaps, our prime initial targets.
Marketing materials were to consist of three levels:
Levels one and two were developed in the winter/spring 2003 and are currently being updated and enhanced. Level three is now in progress. Levels one and two were initially developed with information available at the time. Lacking was a comprehensive listing of available property throughout the city. Efforts were made to expand this listing at that time, but response was minimal, probably due to insufficient publicity combined with apprehension due to the credibility of the board. Keep in mind that this was accomplished by volunteer membership of the board and financed with anonymous private donations.
Sensing urgency to "get on the street" in order to capitalize on publicity surrounding the recently completed I-65 corridor study, we published and began use of the material. Although no new business has been recruited, significant interest has been attracted. After numerous visits by a major franchiser, as well as a visit by corporate management, discussions continue with a chain, sit-down restaurant. A major fast food chain also expressed significant interest by visiting and performing a traffic count. Preferred location of this business require property assemblage which took too long to maintain their interest. We learned from this that timeliness is all important. They remain a future prospect.
Material contained in the brochure has been made available to two major developers with their assurance that Hartselle remains an interest. An anchor business has been contacted as well as a motel developer and business promoter. Also, HDB supported development of tailored material in efforts by the city to recruit Cabela's and more recently furnished information to a prospective restaurant.
HDB participated significantly in legislative visits to Washington and Montgomery in 2003 and 2004. The board not only prepared much of the material presented, but also participated in the visits, all privately financed. These visits served to lobby for financial support for infrastructure improvements critical to economic development. Also in 2003, representatives of TVA, NAIDA (North Alabama Industrial Development Association), The Buxton Co (retail development research firm) and a major commercial real estate broker were invited guests. These guests provided information and guidance to broaden and strengthen the HDB.
This year, HDB sponsored a meeting with a representative of the Alabama Department of Transportation and NARCOG's director of transportation for the purpose of coordinating transportation priorities as presented in Washington in 2003 and 2004 and in Montgomery in 2003.
As mentioned above, HDB is currently neck deep in upgrading the expanded marketing materials, as well as planning broadened and accelerated recruitment of new business.
Attention property owners and realtors: We need your input. If you have property which you wish to be included as available for commercial/industrial development, please contact Jeremy Griffith at 773-0188 or me at 773-6325.
Next time, I'll summarize membership, address marketing and recruitment more fully, discuss how each of you can help and present to proposed plan to solidify support of this board. Remember, this is not "just another board."
Robert Francis is a retired civil engineer and a charter member and current chairman of the Hartselle Development Board.