Delaware County’s economic development office will undertake three major initiatives in 2016, according to its new director.
Bob Lamb, who has been on the job for two and a half months, said plans for the new year include development of a comprehensive retention and expansion program; addressing the development of sanitary sewers in the county; and the creation of an economic development master plan for the entire county.
Developing the retention program will largely consist of gaining feedback from Delaware County businesses regarding their needs and any issues they might be facing.
“We’re going to go out and engage our business stakeholders in the community to determine if there are any red flag issues that exist for them,” Lamb said. “Red flag issues are those issues that might cause them to relocate their operations or close their doors. We want to know what those issues are to see if there are things that we can be doing to engage on those issues, try and make it better and address it. We may not always be able to do so, but at least knowing about it allows us an opportunity to try to intervene and address the issue before it becomes something paramount to that business.”
Lamb said compiling information for the retention and expansion program will encompass most of 2016. He said he hopes to have a report ready by the summer for analysis during the fall.
“It’ll help us learn more about our business community and what we need to do going forward,” he said. “We then will determine what steps we’ll need to take in 2017 to alleviate what issues we can.”
Lamb said his office will be collaborating with Columbus 2020 and local municipalities to compile information for the retention plan.
Lamb said his office also plans to work with the county’s Environmental Services Division to help improve the development process related to sanitary sewers.
“We want to help reduce the number of reviews that are needed, enhance the speed with which we’re doing approvals, so that we can create a better partnership with those organizations that are choosing to make investments in the county,” he said. He noted that the county will be utilizing Lean Six Sigma methodologies, which rely on collaboration to improve performance.
Lamb said that in light of an expected increase in development in Delaware County, the need to streamline procedures and methods for developers will become more important.
“We’re the fastest growing county in Ohio,” he said. “I believe we’re still fifth in the nation, and we’re just going to continue to see new investment opportunities come along. We need to be able to engage those individuals the best we can to be able to help them bring their project to fruition. It’s good for everybody. It brings new residents to the community, new property taxes to the schools, and we want to make sure we’re doing our part to make sure that the future of Delaware County is successful.”
According to Lamb, the economic development master plan will be compiled with input from a wide range of sources, including property owners, business owners, boards of education and other local residents.
“We’re going to go out and engage all of our stakeholders from a holistic viewpoint, putting this plan together so that we’re properly addressing their needs,” he said. “We’re going to ask for their input and thoughts on what’s needed to have successful economic development in Delaware County. We’re going to provide the framework for everyone to engage us, knowing that we may not always be able to address their specific item, but making sure we’ve at least provided an opportunity to hear about it.”
Lamb said receiving feedback from local school districts regarding their future plans and needs will be an important part of the plan.
“One of the things that makes the county amazing is its school systems,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re working in partnership with them to keep that level of excellence that they’ve achieved at the forefront so we can continue to meet the needs of residents.”
Lamb noted that elements of a 2014 strategic plan commissioned by the county will be used as building blocks for the 2016 project.
“The 2014 plan really focused on pulling together information about the industries and demographics within the county,” he said. “The strategic plan we will be developing will be targeted at engaging the stakeholders in the county and establishing action plans to bring new investment to fruition. The new plan will use the information compiled in the 2014 plan to help lay the ground work for this initiative.”
Lamb said his office is still in the process of determining the cost of the three projects. He said grant funding may be available to cover the expenses of some of the work.
“We have not finalized the costs associated with these endeavors,” he said. “However, the business retention and expansion project should not incur any additional costs for the department. I am attempting to secure grant funds from the state to assist with the Lean Six Sigma initiatives. Finally, we will be working on finalizing the economic development master plan approach over the next few months as we move through the county budget process.”
For information about economic development in Delaware County, visit the agency’s website at http://www.delawarecountyecondev.com/.
Andrew Carter can be reached at 740-413-0902 and on Twitter @AndrewCarterDG.