Monday, October 31, 2005

Ponca City’s New Business

Here are excerpts of a story that I received from Tim Burg of Ponca City, OK. I’ve been very impressed with what Ponca City has done to step up their ED efforts. I’m getting more and more stories like this and am going to be posting them when I feel that there is something to be gained.

“I wanted to share a story about a success we have had. Let me begin by saying that this success is still unfolding and it is easy for an economic development person to claim success before it totally develops. I also don’t wish to jinx the deal, which seems to happen when we prematurely claim success. I would entitle this as a work in progress.

I also try to live in the belief that “Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity”. Which simply means this ain’t about me but more so, it is about us and the belief that rural America offers so much, to so many.

In March of this year, we worked a trade show with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce in Florida. This show was focused on financial officers and those who sell their products to such individuals.

On the first day of the show, I met the owner of a company that manufacturers and sells business performance, management software. His name is Jim Eberlin. He is best described as being an entrepreneur who can take his ideas from dreams to commercialization. Jim has successfully built companies from the ground up and turned them into profitable organizations.

Jim and I met several times over the next few days at the conference and worked though some of the details of what his company needed to start an operation in Ponca. We also gave him information on our community regarding our economic development organization. Needless to say, Jim is a quick study and he “got it” very quickly on what we could offer his company.

As I recalled the day of his visit, we could not have planned it better even if we tried. The day was sunny, warm and it seemed that even the squirrels stood on the edge of the curbs as we drove by raising one paw to say hello. (Those little buggers were tough to train!). The local churches even had cute little sayings on their marquees, like welcome to America’s Family Business Heartland” and “Welcome to the Center of our Universe”. Again all unplanned and unrehearsed, except of course for the squirrel part.

Once we established the labor force was here, we then set about finding him office space. We had such space leased in a savings and loan space that was easily renovated for his needs. We even acquired furniture from a large corporation who gave it to us, as we are a non-profit. They got a tax write off, helped us and we gave the furniture to a company therefore reducing their overhead costs. Many win, wins on that issue.

Where all of this is leading is that Jim’s company, Host Analytics, which already has a global presence, is doing business in rural Ponca City Oklahoma. He qualifies for incentives from the State of Oklahoma and our community as well. Jim plans to reach a work force level of 50 to 60 employees in our community over a three to five year period. The average pay range will be in the high $50k to mid $60k range, plus benefits.

To expedite his growth of new employees faster, we were able to connect him with a local VC group that will be supporting him financially to help him reach a higher hiring rate of new employees. This cash infusion will allow him to ramp up much faster. Good for him, good for us.

Jim has shared with that he has now hired his initial group of team members or the pros as he calls them and will now start to hire the rest of the “farm team”. Using a baseball analogy he intends to have the pro’s train the rookies and grow from that point. He has connected with the university and will be able to share his companies needs, regarding specific disciplines and training with them. He has been asked to come speak with several of the accounting and business related classes at the OSU.

So what did we do?

We were friendly and believed in ourselves and our community/region.

We used the tools already in place to help the existing businesses, in helping prove that the employees he needed were here.

We knew what our resources were and who to contact to access them.

We analyzed what he needed and matched them up with the resources. We used empty space to help him get started. We acquired furniture that was drawing dust and gave a corporation a tax write off.

We matched him with companies that can use his product and we helped him create jobs that will allow our children to remain in the community.

We provide him with access to incentives that we already had at both a state and local level.

The key point is we did this. A team of community minded folks who believe in the American Dream and why it still makes sense to be located in a rural setting.

I could write volumes more of this developing opportunity, as everyday we find new ways to help Host Analytics and he in turn helps us by introducing us to companies looking for the similar things we have to offer.

Next time your in the area let us know ahead of time and we can get you and Jim together. He is exactly what Rich Karlguard describes in Life 2.0.

In my mind it’s this entire process has been a match made in heaven."

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