PCDC isn’t just about recruiting new business to the county. Retaining current businesses is a top priority.
1 Nov 2015
While recruiting new business is a major function of the Phelps County Development Corporation, business retention is equally important.
Often times, growth comes from existing businesses, PCDC Board Member Tim Rehm said. “It may make sense to help someone who is already here create 10 new jobs.”
“It doesn’t do any good to put in a new business and lose five others,” Board Member Jim Wiser reiterated.
And Board Member Karen Benjamin agrees.
“I hope that we can keep the businesses alive that we have now, helping them grow and helping them through troubles,” she said.
Since PCDC’s inception, staff and volunteers have offered current businesses retention and expansion incentives. Some of the programs targeted to current business owners have included:
- Gap financing loans for expansion projects, working capital, equipment, job training or transition to new ownership;
- Working with businesses to identify high-demand jobs and then offering scholarships to students willing to return to the county to fill those jobs;
- Façade improvement grants for downtown businesses in 2014 and even more businesses in previous years;
- The Business in Motion program, a once-a-month meeting for business owners to “work on their businesses rather than in their businesses” and network with other business owners facing the same challenges.
Those are some of the major programs that PCDC has created to retain current businesses. But, even the day-to-day work, such as regular visits with business owners, helps with retention.
“We regularly conduct interviews with businesses,” PCDC Executive Director Monica Boyken said. “The goal is a healthy business and community climate for growth and expansion. As business’ concerns are flushed out in these confidential meetings, PCDC collaborates with other community agencies to implement the necessary improvements. This means businesses can efficiently and effectively carry out their mission with less red tape, fewer hurdles and more support.”
Boyken said business assistance can be as simple as listening, brainstorming, or making introductions to another business owner or a referral to a regional or state resource.
PCDC has helped businesses, like Janssen & Sons Ford, with tax increment financing questions and applications, and has even walked around town to help owners who are seeking a new building. PCDC matched Cargill with the Village of Atlanta, which resulted in a $30 million expansion.
“In their case, the option was expand or leave,” Boyken said. “Great (and simple) retention!”
Even much of the work involved in purchasing and marketing the new Iron Horse Business and Industry Park benefits local businesses since it is likely that a local business will take advantage of the new location someday.
Boyken said retention is important because satisfied and healthy existing businesses drive the local economy.
“The retention of an existing customer is less expensive and more efficient than the attraction of a new one,” Boyken said. “There’s no better reference for a prospective business than a happy existing business owner."