Economic Development Corp. urged to be one-stop place for data

Economic Development Corp. urged to be one-stop place for data

CHAMPAIGN — As companies increasingly rely on data in deciding where to locate and expand, the Champaign County Economic Development Corp. needs to position itself as "a business market intelligence expert," its chairman said.

Companies' decisions are "really very data-driven," Cameron Moore told the economic development group's board of directors Wednesday.

To illustrate the situation, the group's deputy director, Erik Kotewa, showed the board a detailed questionnaire that a company sent the group in December 2010.

Among other things, the company wanted data on zoning, utilities, transportation, taxes, environmental compliance, incentives, labor availability, wage rates and site specifications.

Kotewa said it took most of "three or four days" to fulfill the request. The company made three visits to Champaign County in January and February of 2011, and coordinating and hosting each visit required four days of work, he said.

Moore said it's important to have one place where companies can go for that data, rather than going to individual cities and villages. Companies that have to contact multiple locations are likely to knock those places out of consideration, he said.

Though Champaign County was a finalist for the project Kotewa described, the company ended up choosing another site.

One factor was wastewater disposal, he said. The company needed to dispose of 1 million gallons of salty water a day, so it chose a site near a river where the wastewater could be diluted.

In other business:

— Moore said the economic development group expects to finalize a new strategic plan Sept. 23 and present it to the board for approval in October. Once it is approved, the board will begin considering a search for a new CEO.

Former CEO Mike Kirchhoff was terminated from the position in June after 10 months on the job. Kirchhoff started a new job this week as president and CEO of the Clinton (Iowa) Regional Development Corp.

— Greg Gonda, director of the local Small Business Development Center, reported that Kathie Cravens has been hired as international trade specialist for the local International Trade Center. She will help central Illinois companies expand into the international market and provide advice on export processes and market opportunities.

Cravens formerly worked in international logistics for the GSI Group in Assumption.

— Kotewa said a technical service center is considering setting up shop in the Champaign-Urbana market. He said the project seems to be "a good fit with the University of Illinois" and could create 200 jobs.

However, an agricultural business that plans to use alternative manufacturing processes is no longer considering locating here, he said.

That company has narrowed its search to sites in Iowa and Nebraska, in part because biomass production was greater there.

— Kotewa said the economic development group sponsored a biotechnology roundtable involving 18 companies on Sept. 3 and a distribution roundtable involving seven companies on Sept. 13.

The latter group heard a presentation on ADM's new intermodal ramp in Decatur that connects CSX, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National railroads. That facility could decrease "short-haul" rates for companies in the Champaign-Urbana area, he said.

The group will sponsor four more roundtables in the coming month: a manufacturing roundtable Sept. 25 at Dart Container in Urbana; a North Lincoln Avenue roundtable Oct. 1 at Supervalu in Urbana; a roundtable for Rantoul businesses Oct. 2 at the Rantoul Business Center; and a North Market Street roundtable Oct. 8 with The Atkins Group as host.

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (2):Economy, Technology