|Local economic development summit offers solutions|
|Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Monday, 03 June 2013 09:21|
Solutions for local economic, transportation, and workforce concerns were on display recently.
The Economic Development Summit, at the Holiday Inn Express on East Wooster Street, highlighted the efforts of Bowling Green State University students through projects aiming to help the greater Bowling Green community.
The projects were the result of a Seminar in Local Economic Development the students enrolled in as part of their coursework in the Masters in Public Administration program at BGSU. Four opportunities were available:
• A coordinated public transportation and human services plan, with WSOS.
• A Bowling Green workforce needs assessment, with the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation.
• A Buy Local campaign, also with the BGCDF.
• A Wood County Regional Airport alternative revenue study, with the Wood County Regional Airport.
The course, taught by Dr. Russell Mills, was a service-learning seminar allowing students to work with a community partner. The course served two additional purposes - the students get real-world experience, while the agencies they work with receive free services.
"Buy BG" was the slogan dreamed up by one of the groups, working with the BGCDF to help develop the Buy Local campaign for Bowling Green businesses. Communities with well-known and well-publicized campaigns of this kind often show growth in local revenue.
Through work with area businesses and surveys, the group found that BGSU students often weren't aware of local stores and restaurants in the downtown and other areas. Only 55 percent of students said they visited local retailers once or twice a week. A quarter of students surveyed said they never did.
"We need to raise awareness of what Bowling Green has to offer," said group member Stephanie Shackelford.
The group worked with a graphic designer from the Copy Shop to develop a logo, and established a Facebook page for the "Buy BG" initiative, which quickly racked up attention online. A visual directory of local businesses was started on that page. They even set up a Buy BG internship program, with two positions, to be housed in the Bowling Green Economic Development Foundation to continue and build on the project.
"We have barely scratched the surface on a buy local campaign for the city of Bowling Green," said Holly Cipriani.
Another group discussed potential alternate revenue opportunities for the Wood County Regional Airport. The airport is itself closely intertwined with the university and its aviation program. While the WCRA's main source of revenue comes from fuel sales, more than 64 percent of those sales are to BGSU.
Group members discussed the possibility of developing airport-owned land, creating specific zoning categories for the airport itself, adding on to its website, and working with the Bowling Green Chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau to collaborate on other ideas. The location, they said, could be used as a historical resource or business meeting space.
Regarding the transit plan, project member Desmond Carter noted that "public transportation is an important part of economic development."
Those in need of the service usually require it most for hospital and doctors' trips. Transit in a given area often translates out to higher quality of life, which itself translates into other regional benefits. However, in Wood County, only Bowling Green and Rossford have dedicated public transit options.
Surveys and focus groups conducted by the group found that the demand is coming largely from aging baby boomers and seniors, commuters and those with disabilities.
Students looking into the workforce needs of area employers found that retention of their workers is among their greatest challenges, and that many workers seem to have issues concerning work ethic, feelings of entitlement, and resistance to being managed. Many lack needed math skills and basic concepts of professionalism.
"Businesses just feel the pool of applicants" isn't as good as it could be, said group member and Bowling Green City Councilman Daniel Gordon.
The event took place April 24.
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