A more business-friendly website and an economic development director could help Highland Heights attract and retain businesses, according to a consultant.
Dennis Burnside of Mohr Partners was hired to study how the city handles economic development and recommend where improvements can be made. He told City Council that although Finance Director Anthony Ianiro and Mayor Scott Coleman were keeping track of business projects, it's better to have a director dedicated to economic development.
"In spite of the fact that no one is in charge, Mr. Ianiro and the mayor were committed to seeing things through," Burnside said.
Among other recommendations, Burnside said the city's website needs to market the Highland Heights to prospective businesses.
"It doesn't do a whole lot for you in terms of informing what the city is about," he said. "It falls short on letting people know about available lands and buildings. There's no clear path for a real estate broker."
He also suggested annual city tours for real estate agents, enhancing the customer service for permits and several other tasks that would be the responsibility of an economic development director.
The study, budgeted at no more than $7,000, was the first phase of a project that would cost $20,000 to $25,000. The second phase would involve implementation of the recommendations, including developing a strategy and assistance in hiring an economic development director.
Council President Cathy Murphy noted that the city had an economic development director, but the position was eliminated in 2005 or 2006 due to budget concerns.
City officials are considering whether to go ahead with the second phase. They also wanted to know Burnside's opinion regarding the county's anti-poaching protocol. Council had discussed the agreement and decided it wasn't of any benefit to Highland Heights.
"I would suggest you sign it," Burnside said. "It goes back to the collaborative spirit between communities."