Darrow dives into role in New RichmondNow that Mike Darrow is settling into his role as New Richmond’s city administrator and utilities manager, the community’s economic development efforts appear to be kicking into high gear.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
Now that Mike Darrow is settling into his role as New Richmond’s city administrator and utilities manager, the community’s economic development efforts appear to be kicking into high gear.
Darrow came to New Richmond with significant economic development experience, and city officials were optimistic that the new employee would help the community with its effort to expand its business base. Their confidence in Darrow’s ability to focus on such matters appears to be paying off already.
At last week’s City Council meeting, Darrow was designated as the chairman of the New Richmond Economic Development Commission, replacing Chairperson Judy Simon who has filled that role for some time. Darrow’s appointment to that position was affirmed by the NREDC at its meeting Friday.
Wasting little time, Darrow took the opportunity Friday to announce the creation of a “rapid response team” that will meet regularly with existing and prospective businesses to help promote job growth and the city’s tax base.
Darrow, Mayor Fred Horne, city Administrative Secretary Beth Thompson and local businesswoman Summer Seidenkranz make up the team.
The main goal of the group is to communicate with and respond to questions or concerns raised by local businesses.
“The team can quickly respond to the needs of businesses in the community,” Darrow explained. “It’s not so much reaching out to new businesses, it’s focusing on businesses that we already have here.”
Darrow called the concept “economic gardening,” or attending to and assisting businesses that are already located in New Richmond. It’s a departure from traditional economic development strategies that focus on attracting new companies to relocate in a community.
Darrow said most of the new commercial and industrial construction that occurs in New Richmond comes from businesses presently in the city and the surrounding area, so it makes sense to spend time developing those relationships.
The new response team, along with the help of NREDC members, will meet with business owners and local leaders on a monthly basis to achieve the “economic gardening” goal, Darrow said.
The city still plans to devote some time and effort to attracting new business to the community. Darrow said with the help of Robert Barbian, director of planning and community development; Paul Mayer, president of the New Richmond Area Economic Development Corp.; and Bill Rubin, executive director of the St. Croix County Economic Development Corp., the community would continue to reach out to prospects across the nation.
The city also hopes that a soon-to-be-completed marketing plan will help the economic development process, Darrow said.
Ady Voltedge Marketing has been working with city officials for several months to evaluate the current marketing efforts and recommend a better way to approach the task. Among some of the expected recommendations are an improved city website; a beefed up “pitch” presentation used when talking with business prospects; a regular vacancy report showing what office, commercial and industrial space is available in New Richmond; and an updated community profile packet.
Darrow said he expected the final marketing plan to be ready for city council consideration by late summer or early fall.
Another new tool to assist the city’s efforts will be a new “Economic Development Lab,” which is being created in the New Richmond Civic Center.
The lab will be located in space recently vacated by the New Richmond Police Department when it moved into a remodeled building on the southern part of town.
Darrow said the lab will bring all of the departments that deal with economic development (utilities, mapping, engineering) together in the same area so a sense of teamwork is fostered. There will also be a large conference room developed where all of the city maps, economic development resources and more will be housed.
“This will be our marketing center,” he said.
NREDC member Judy Simon said the city’s renewed focus on economic development is coming at the perfect time. She said businesses are much more open to expanding and building now than they were three years ago.
“It’s a complete and total atmosphere change in the economy,” she said.