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Middletown doubles down on business retention efforts

Monday, September 15, 2014

Article by Journal-News


City government and The Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton are partnering, they say to better serve existing businesses.

By joining forces, hopes are it will reduce duplicate visits to local companies from Middletown city staff, chamber and other development agencies, while at the same time creating better lines of communication.

Additionally, combined efforts could have the effect of reaching more small- and medium-sized businesses in the community.

“We want to help them grow so if there’s ever a problem, we want them to know they have the resources of the chamber and the city to make one phone call between us and the problem starts to be solved,” said Rick Pearce, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

It’s important to meet and address concerns of existing businesses. In fact, a rule of thumb in economic development is that more jobs are created by businesses already located in the community than the recruitment of new companies.

However, the challenges have been sorting out the purpose of meeting with business leaders — preventing meetings for the sake of meetings — while also getting the message across who business owners can contact when there’s a problem, said Matt Eisenbraun, program manager for Middletown’s economic development department.

Middletown has had business retention programs before. What’s different this time, is that business is conducted on the fly and not all meetings have to be held in a conference room. Maybe Pearce catches a business contact at the grocery store for five minutes and accomplishes the same thing — letting business people know the city cares, and can respond to their concerns.

“I personally am excited to learn more about what they do and if we can aid them in any way,” Pearce said. “If each (chamber member) had enough resources to hire another person, that’d be 400 more jobs to add to the community.”

Here’s what businesses need to know:

• Expect a call from the new so-called business alliance about meeting sometime soon.

• Do you want to meet with government leaders? Call the chamber and let them know. “I would encourage that,” Pearce said.

• Eventually, the city and chamber hopes to find out what common issues local businesses are having and form strategies to solve those problems.

• While the city and the chamber are the face of the revived business retention program, they are part of a committee consisting of representatives from Middletown Moving Forward, Miami University, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Butler County Port Authority, Butler Tech, Downtown Middletown Inc., Warren County Office of Economic Development, OhioMeansJobs-Butler County and other chamber and local business volunteers that are working together on this.

• Businesses don’t have to be chamber members to arrange meetings or share concerns.

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