Midwest cities stay competitive with aggressive and proactive marketing to attract new businesses.
Amy Bigley

As the economy begins to improve and the light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter, cities and economic development organizations are ready to hit the ground running again — although most have continued aggresives campaigns throughout the downturn. Cities need businesses, and businesses, in turn, thrive in cities that offer favorable lifestyles for employees and pro-business incentives for companies.

As many markets across the Midwest have bottomed out, commercial real estate now on a slow uphill trek, and cities are waiting to benefit from the uptick in transactions and construction.

“For the past four decades, Dublin, Ohio, has grown from a small village of 700 to an internationally recognized city of 41,000 residents, with a business population of more than 60,000,” says Colleen Gilger, economic development manager for the city of Dublin.

Dublin’s recent growth, coupled with advances in technology and business, has led the city to adopt new regulations, codes and zoning, which build upon Dublin’s pro-business stance. Adjusting city regulations and zoning are ways to open more doors for companies and businesses to enter the city. In addition to favorable regulations, Dublin is improving its infrastructure through the construction of Emerald Parkway, a marquee roadway that traverses the city from east to west.

The proposed Bridge Street Corridor will create a walkable retail, restaurant and entertainment destination for Dublin, Ohio.

Maintaining a usable infrastructure reduces some barriers to entry and relocation issues for companies looking to build or relocate to an area.

In addition to Emerald Parkway, the city has three projects under way that should attract businesses to the area — Bridge Street Corridor, a 1,100-acre Economic Advancement Zone (EAZ) and Technology Flex District.

Dublin is developing the Bridge Street Corridor along Bridge Street between the Interstate 270 and U.S. 33 interchange, and Sawmill Road. The project is one of the city’s speed-to-build zones, which will offer live, work and play opportunities.

“The city of Dublin is mapping the community’s future by creating speed-to-build development zones and studying trends to determine the next-generation living, working and recreational needs,” explains Gilger.

Bridge Street Corridor will offer a walkable environment with a mix of land uses, residential options, natural features and amenities. Gilger notes that the corridor is designed to reinforce the city’s long-term competitiveness and promote fiscal health and adaptability through its pedestrian-friendly design.

Additionally, Dublin’s development and improvement of its EAZ and Technology Flex District will attract light flex and industrial companies to the market, which will bring more residents to the area and, in turn, more retail and restaurant opportunities.

While bringing in private companies and businesses has always been an option for cities, Village of Hoffman Estates has embraced public/private partnerships as a different approach to attracting businesses.

“The village has partnered with developers, tenants and even a surrounding shopping center to brand the area as a destination for shopping, dining and entertainment,” says Gary Skoog, director of economic development with the Village of Hoffman Estates.

Poplar Creek at 59/90 is a thriving mixed-use development in Village of Hoffman Estates, Illinois. The center’s retail, restaurant and entertainment options are filling a void in the marketplace.

This collaborate effort created Poplar Creek at 59/90, mixed-use project named after the historical concert venue Poplar Creek Music Theater. The retail focal point of the center, Poplar Creek Crossing Shopping Center, offers a strong roster of tenants, including Target, Cost Plus World Market, Michaels, Office Max, PetSmart and T.J. Maxx, to the underserved area. Restaurants, including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Buffalo Wild Wings, have also joined the power center making it a destination for shoppers and diners alike.

The Village of Hoffman Estates aggressively markets to all sectors from light industrial to office to retail and from personal visits to trade show attendees, notes Skoog.

This proactive mindset has kept the village on the radars of a variety of companies, including international companies.

Three Japanese companies have built American headquarters in Hoffman Estates in the past 3 years, and NSK America, a subsidiary of Japan-based Nakaniski, is currently constructing a 25,500-square-foot building at Huntington 90 Business Park.

McShane Corporation’s development of Huntington 90 Business Park was a catalyst for the Japanese companies’ locating in the village, which has benefited in more ways than just the additional business.

“A unique outcome of the new toolmakers has been collaboration with like companies along the Golden Corridor developing workforce development programs,” explains Skoog.

IGS Energy has developed a 105,000-square-foot headquarters facility on 16 acres in Dublin, Ohio. The building is seeking LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

With the influx of new industrial and manufacturing companies, the village is focusing on changing residents’ mindsets and attitudes about hi-tech manufacturing. Skoog notes that the programs include executive-lead demonstrations with robots or precision tools to expose students and parents to the unique opportunities within the high-tech field, which often includes high-paying jobs. In addition to international industrial companies, Tate & Lyle PLC, makers of Spenda sweetener, recently leased 110,000 square feet at Prairie Stone Business Park.

The village has a holistic approach to marketing and attracting new businesses to the area — an increase in jobs creates a ripple effect that allows residents to shop more frequently in local stores, commit to the community with house purchases, and support local restaurants, businesses and events.

Village of Hoffman Estates is looking forward to positive growth and development for its surrounding area. The village’s biggest economic goal is to complete preparatory work for a full interchange at Interstate 90 and Barrington Road. The village is also picking up where the economy left off a few years ago, with retail and office infill as a top priority for the immediate future. The village’s continued infrastructure improvement and the flourishing industrial sector will also help to boost its pro-business efforts.

“The high traffic intersection, with a combined 173,000 average daily trips, will significantly improve business development to adjacent properties ranging from expansion to new construction,” says Skoog.

To stay in the game, Dublin and the Village of Hoffman Estates had to be aggressive and proactive in their efforts to attract companies, nationally and internationally, to their respective markets. Even on the heels of the recession, the commercial real estate market is as competitive as ever and companies are looking to gain the market advantage, which oftentimes cities can deliver.

©2011 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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