Chance Favors the Prepared Community – Especially in Economic Development

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The City of Portage, WI gets first major business relocation in over 17 years.

the City of Portage, WI took a proactive approach to building its economic development capacity by hiring Ady Voltedge.

Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” The City of Portage, Wisconsin proved that the same holds true in economic development.

Like many communities, the City of Portage found itself facing many external challenges to growth, among them declining state contributions, a flat or declining population, and in the last couple of years, the effects of a long and treacherous recession.

Rather than be at the mercy of these external factors, the City of Portage, Wisconsin took a proactive approach to building its economic development capacity. The City hired a nationally recognized site selection and economic development strategy consultancy, Ady Voltedge, to provide a blueprint for economic growth.

“We had three goals in hiring Ady Voltedge,” said Ken Jahn, the City project lead and former mayor. “We wanted an honest assessment of where the City of Portage was at. We wanted an attainable vision of what we could achieve. And we wanted a practical roadmap for getting there.”

Ady Voltedge led a process that assessed the City’s internal capacities, identified the City’s target industries and marketing strategies, and put together all of the recommendations into an economic development strategic plan.

While the plan was being developed, the City was able to immediately use the deliverables in its negotiations with a manufacturer that was looking to expand to the area. The focus on manufacturing, the strategic positioning of the City’s advantages for manufacturing, and even the prioritization of available properties helped guide the City throughout the recruitment process.

“At the start of this process, we were not as prepared as we wanted to be to retain businesses, let alone recruit new businesses,” said Jahn. “But gaining an insider’s perspective on how the business recruitment process works really helped us understand what we needed to do and why.”

On the night of the final presentation to the City Council, Mayor Jahn shared with the Council, the consultant, and the press that R&M Hydro Farms LLC had signed a letter of intent to build a new manufacturing facility in the City, with a total estimated capital investment of $20 million and 50-70 employees.

“It all really came together well,” Jahn said. “We did the work, we talked to the people, we learned what we needed to do, and we did it.”

City Administrator Shawn Murphy, who is working with current Mayor Bill Tierney overseeing implementation of the consultant’s work, said, “This is exactly the type of actionable recommendations we were seeking, and as you can tell by the recent announcement, we are already putting the study to good use in recruiting businesses.”

The main focus of Ady Voltedge is to help economic development organizations attract and grow business investment and work with corporate clients to select locations that enhance operational competitiveness.

Ady Voltedge's clients include economic development organizations (EDOs), utilities, state agencies and private companies.

Connect: @adyvoltedge on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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Janet Ady
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