October 21, 2014

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Wadsworth eyes consolidated economic development plan

Wadsworth officials are looking to tie their various economic development efforts into a single citywide blueprint this year and hope to have a plan targeting downtown by 2015.

“We’ve been kicking around the idea for a while, but we haven’t had the time to devote to it,” said Harry Stark, city assistant service director.

The city has a comprehensive plan that was completed in 2011, along with a multi-modal plan for the city’s trails, and a parks and recreation plan. Last month, the city got a grant to create a street planning project.

“The goal is to tie all these plans together into one document,” said Stark. That one document would also include feedback from local businesses and residents and include a strategy for implementing the recommendations in the plan.

“One of the goals would be during the assessment phase is to look at some of our industries and ask them why are they successful here and what is preventing them from growing,” Stark said. He said the comprehensive plan would also identify strengths the city could build on to grow local businesses and entice new ones to come to Wadsworth.

The comprehensive plan is one step toward creating a downtown economic development plan next year.

“We started making some appointments and meetings with consultants who specialized in downtown plans and economic plans and we came away with the idea that we needed a citywide economic development plan first,” Stark said.

Stark said there are downtown business owners who have an interest in creating a development plan specific to the city’s downtown.

Stark said he and Wadsworth City Planner Jeff Kaiser will work closely with council members over the next few months to get the city-wide and downtown plans moving.

“We’re hoping to do some things in house and contract out some portions,” he said.

Stark said city leaders have had good conversations with the consultants they met with and could work with a consulting firm to do some of the planning if council agrees to hire one.

Dennis Shultz, chairman of the Economic Development Committee said his committee has been getting regular updates from Stark and Kaiser, but the process is still in the early planning stages.

Shultz said the idea of bringing economic development plans up to date has been supported by downtown businesses, and he said it makes sense to develop two separate plans.

“The downtown is mostly light retail shops and specialty stores, so maybe we look at what kind of anchor businesses we could bring downtown to generate traffic,” Shultz said. “But in the city, we want to look at our industrial areas, look at the strength and weaknesses, what’s the land availability.”

Shultz said City Council hasn’t been asked to hire any consultants yet. But he added that after Stark and Kaiser complete what they are able to on their own, they may come before Council requesting money to hire a consulting firm to complete the development plans.

“A consultant could tell us what has worked well in other communities that are similar,” Shultz said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.