The first six months of my tenure at GREDF has been an excellent experience. I have learned that the strength of the Quincy business community anchored by a number of locally owned businesses and supported by international companies operating in Quincy has been a key to the success of our community. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with over 120 companies and groups during this time. I’ve also come to appreciate the strength and talents of the GREDF staff, the dedication of the Board and Executive Committee and the long established partnerships that are critical to the success of GREDF. This combination forms a very strong base to take GREDF to the next level in the future.
2013 – A Transition Year
2013 is a transition year for GREDF in terms of leadership, budget and focus. The 2013 work plan put together by Maggie Strong and Megan Backs has been the transitional document guiding GREDF activities this year. The staff and board of directors have begun working on strategic planning for the 2014 program year.
2014 Plan of Work
At the December Board meeting a plan of work will be proposed to the Board for approval. This plan will encompass all of the initiatives that the staff will work on in 2014. Core initiatives will focus on Business Retention and Expansion, Workforce Development, Marketing and Promotion, Membership and communicating the GREDF mission to the community. The Tri-State Summit and regional participation will also be a focus.
In the meetings thus far the most critical issue facing the business community is workforce. The ability to find and hire qualified people has been a universal discussion. Under Megan Backs’ direction, GREDF partnered with John Wood, the United Way and the regional Workforce Investment Board to host a half day meeting of Adams County education and workforce leaders to define workforce issues and begin a process to address those issues. A steering committee of 8 stakeholders was formed and has been meeting to develop a coordinated county-wide strategy. This is one of the most challenging tasks that GREDF faces.
As I began my tenure with GREDF it was clear that although GREDF had excellent communication tools such as the e-development newsletter, there needed to be more direct communication between the staff, board leadership and public partners. I began a bi-weekly update specifically on staff activity to the GREDF Board. The GREDF Board update is a confidential internal document. In May I started a monthly report to the Quincy City Council distributed via email and to the Adams County Board as a printed document. These communications are written to not violate any confidential information GREDF receives from company meetings and to enhance communications with our public partners.
Tri State Summit
Planning for the May 2014 Tri-State Summit is ongoing with Megan and Maggie working on the initial planning issues. The Steering Committee has reduced the number of Task Forces to four: Connectivity, Housing, Tourism and Transportation (now including rivers issues).
Galesburg Exchange / International Trade initiatives
- An exchange of leadership ideas between Quincy and Galesburg began in May when a group of community and economic development leaders from Galesburg came to Quincy. During this initial exchange I met Gary Camerano, the Global Strategies Director for the City of Galesburg. Gary and I have had several opportunities to meet and discuss how our two cities can work together to promote international trade in our region.
- The State of Illinois recently formed an Export Advisory Council to work directly with local E.D. organizations on trade issues.
- The Chamber and GREDF also met with a business delegation from Macedonia that was in Illinois.
- Charles Bell and I traveled to Peoria to meet with the director of their FTZ, Port Director and International Trade specialists. Regional partnerships will help GREDF become more active providing our businesses with international trade opportunities.
Regional Economic Development contacts
I’ve had the chance to meet with a number of the Economic Development representatives in the region. GREDF is working with Gina Sherman in Pike County to offer assistance on a proposed project in Nebo. Contacts with the USDA representatives, N.E. Missouri Power Coop and Macomb have been made. I’ve also been attending the monthly Rural Area Development Council meetings with Charles Bell.
I’ve been working very closely with Charles Bell on Port Authority and River issues. Charles has an excellent working knowledge and relationship with regional and state officials. Several representatives from AdamsCounty attended meetings in Springfield to discuss changes at the state level in Port and river issues. We’ve met with Keokuk, Iowa, representatives and GREDF facilitates monthly meetings of the regional Port group.
Discussions with Federal Waterway officials had helped in the re-submission of the Tiger Grant application for a new proposed Port facility. Unfortunately, the latest Tiger Grant was not approved and therefore new discussion must begin about the future of the Port and other possible funding sources.
GREDF worked with the Adams County Board to write a resolution that the Board will send to both State and Federal legislators. That resolution highlighted the serious maintenance and upgrade issues on the Mississippi. The Board will be sending the resolution to other Illinois River counties and urging them to pass a similar resolution and forward it on to legislators.
Work on specific projects is ongoing. GREDF staff is working with several local companies that have expansion potential.
Marketing / Promotion of Quincy and Adams County
I’ve begun several activities related to marketing. Maggie and Megan put together a very informative introductory package about Quincy in both printed and electronic format. To date I’ve sent that packet along with a letter electronically to 78 site consultants, national realtors and several corporate real estate executives I’ve worked with in the past. In May I began one–on-one meetings with this group. To date I’ve met with representatives from KPMG in Columbus, and spent 2 days in Chicago at meetings with Deloitte, Binswanger, Duff and Phelps, Mohr Partners and Newmark Knight. I also met with 2 manufacturing companies I contacted last fall that are potential relocations from Cook County. Megan Backs attended the Industry Week Magazine Consultant meetings in Florida from June 10th to June 13th. At that event she had one-on-one meetings with eight national consulting firms. This event gave Megan a broader understanding of that part of economic development.
Two events in October will provide additional marketing opportunities. The International Economic Development Council Annual Meeting is being held in Philadelphia and during that three-day meeting I will have the opportunity to meet with a number of national site consultants and commercial real estate firms to discuss opportunities in Quincy, specifically the assets of the South Quincy Development District and transportation. The second event is similar to the meetings Megan attended in June. I will be attending the Industry Week Magazine Consultants Roundtable for 3 days and have one on one meetings with 10 to 12 consulting firms that work on major, high value projects.
Relocation to Quincy
On September 9th, my wife, Karen, and I moved into our new home here in AdamsCounty. Karen and I are very excited to become permanent members of the Quincy community.
My thanks to the GREDF Board of Directors for the privilege of serving in a leadership role in this great organization. The past 6 months have been a very positive experience and I look forward to moving GREDF forward.
Marcel W. Wagner Jr., CEcD