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City of Janesville to invest in development

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
February 28, 2012
— Janesville City Council members on Monday agreed to spend $22,300 to ramp up economic development efforts and aggressively market the city to domestic and possibly international companies who might locate here.

Vic Grassman, economic development director for the city, urged the council to approve a contract for that amount with Applied Marketing Sciences of Carmel, Ind. The contract also would help the city create a database of businesses it could pursue on its own in the future.


Councilwoman Kathy Voskuil called the contract a proactive business development plan.


The city's economic development needs have changed since General Motors left town, and Janesville can no longer afford to wait for companies to approach it, Grassman said.


Applied Marketing Sciences will work with site selectors hired by companies to find locations in which to expand or relocate, Grassman said. The company will help the city better profile itself to qualified leads.


Often, the city doesn't even know companies are looking for sites, Grassman said. If site locators visit, the city might not know the identity of the interested company.


This new direction is an "opportunity to go out and educate industries about Janesville," Grassman said.


The city also will get feedback on the kinds of information different companies might look for in relocating, Grassman said. It then would develop a database so that it could manage its own relationships in the future.


The city is targeting several industries, including manufacturing and health care products. Councilman Yuri Rashkin suggested the city focus on agricultural industries, as well.


The $22,300 being spent also includes money for a trade show in South America to introduce Janesville to international companies. Cost to send city staff to the trade show could be another $30,000.


Councilman Tom McDonald said the city might have better luck using the money it would spend on a trade show to instead concentrate on developing more relationships with site selectors.


"To be honest, I'm not completely sold on the idea of an international trade show for Janesville," he said. "I think there's going to be plenty of competition for worldwide trade shows. If we've got site selectors right here in the U.S., I think our money is better spent here."


City Manager Eric Levitt said the city looked at South America because it already has some connections through Tigre USA, a Janesville-based company that manufactures and markets plastic pipe fittings.


"All it takes is one company," Levitt said. "If that one company comes it's a long shot—but the $19,000 is paid off right there."


In supporting the contract, Councilwoman Deb Dongarra-Adams noted the city has only Grassman in its economic development office.


The money to hire Applied Marketing Sciences will come from the city's TIF districts. Staff also will seek grants to help fund the contract.


Other business

The Janesville City Council on Monday:


-- Agreed to demolish a home at 203 Linn St. The city bought the foreclosed property from Rock County for $3,954.


-- Agreed to sell property at 407 Lincoln St. for $80,000. The city rehabilitated the home it had bought for $51,000 as part of its blight elimination program. A neighbor from the area thanked the council, noting the city has worked with 32 properties in the Fourth Ward neighborhood.


The council has made a "major difference" in a neighborhood the size of the Fourth Ward when one considers past problems caused by criminals who lived in the blighted homes, resident Burdette Erickson said.


The city's Neighborhood Stabilization Program is not meant to be an instant profit maker, he added. But it will bring profit down the road by returning homes to property tax rolls and raising housing values throughout the neighborhood, he said.


-- Approved a $28,030 tax increment financing agreement with Fab-Masters, 1111 W. Racine St. The company is expanding on the city's south side.


-- Agreed to raise parking fines. Council members said they increased public safety violations—parking in handicapped stalls goes from $40 to $120, for example—to encourage compliance. "This is not for raising funds," Councilman Sam Liebert said. "If anything, I hope revenue drops … (to show) people take it more seriously and (do) not park in a handicapped stall."


-- Sold the historic Hugunin house, 2739 Beloit Ave., for $70,000.



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