“We will go back out now and do the rest of the businesses over the course of about the next two months,” said Anna Sapp, PEP executive director.
Information gathered in the survey will help the partnership formulate an economic development plan for Powell and the surrounding area.
“We want a realistic, achievable, community-driven plan for economic development,” Sapp said.
To help fund that effort, Sapp asked the Powell City Council last week to sponsor a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Wyoming for the Powell Economic Partnership.
If the grant is approved by the Wyoming Business Council, Powell Economic Partnership would provide the required $16,667 in local match money.
“It is one of the best opportunities the city has had in a long time,” Sapp told the City Council. “For the price of the resolution, you’re going to get back a plan for economic development for our community. This is a three- to five-year plan that will set forth a direction for us as we begin looking at economic development so that we’re not doing economic development willy nilly; we’re doing it in a planned, thoughtful manner.”
Sapp said no plan for economic development currently exists for Powell, “and that creates some potential issues in terms of development.”
The council voted unanimously to sponsor the grant. Councilman Jim Hillberry said the partnership can hire someone “to give us a fresh look, ... to expand our efforts to bring in new business and expanding current businesses.”
“About 75 percent of all economic development that happens is expansion of current businesses, and we need to spend some time working with current businesses,” Sapp said.
City Administrator Zane Logan said the city has not had an economic development plan for at least eight years.
Sapp said, “We’ve gone back nine years and haven’t found anything in writing.”
Sapp told the Tribune the plan would identify:
• Community definitions and expectations of economic development.
• Core values of quality of life within this community.
• Strong Northwest College programs, such as photography and welding, that can create business growth clusters “so we don’t lose those students back out in the world.”
• Target business recruitment clusters, or types of businesses.
• How economic development efforts can leverage broadband access and other perceived community strengths.
• Added growth clusters for the agriculture sector.
• Underserved populations and their needs.
• Downtown renewal and development needs.
• Methods of supporting local entrepreneurial endeavors.
• Business retention and expansion needs.
The plan will also develop a proposed growth map that includes proposed enterprise zones, or suggested locations for groups of businesses with similar infrastructure needs. That would create savings by having those needs identified and planned for, Sapp said.
Sapp said the business surveys are beginning to identify trends that will be helpful during the economic development planning process.
“By having every business participate, it allows us to really solidify what those trends are, so we can attack issues within our community. ... We also ask them about good things that are true positive assets in the community.”
Jan Kraft, NWC associate professor of accounting and business administration, is a member of the Powell Economic Partnership. She said she looks for opportunities for her students to participate in and learn from the partnership’s efforts.
“When Anna asked if they could help with the survey, I agreed,” she said.
Members of the enactus team with an entrepreneurial focus helped with the survey, Kraft said.
“They enjoyed learning first-hand about businesses instead of reading about them in a book,” she said.
One of those participating enactus team members students was Joe Trichler.
“I have learned quite a bit,” Trichler said. “I’m looking forward to when I’ll be able to see all that information and see what all those business owners might have said in those surveys.
“It’s been interesting to talk to some of the business owners about what their perspectives are on the business environment in Powell, things they would like to improve and ways in which they plan to grow,” Trichler said. “For a student to see that, and for those owners to spend time with students, it shows that they are supportive of up-and-coming businessmen and women and their education.”
(Tessa Schweigert contributed reporting to this article.)