Elyria has an image problem, and Elyria has an economic development problem.
The two go hand-in-hand.
Just as a good reputation precedes an attractive location, Mayor Holly Brinda said Elyria has to do a better job at changing the public opinion of the city among outsiders as well as residents. It’s about making Elyria the first choice among those looking for a place to live and move their businesses. That is at the heart of what drives economic development.
In the first of four presentations to City Council, Mayor Holly Brinda presented Monday night the first goal in her four-prong economic development plan: Promote Elyria.
“Our best sales people are the people that live right here in this community,” she said. “The things that you don’t think of as economic development really are connected. These are the things that matter to people. They are about quality of life. They play a part in job retention and expansion because they are the things Realtors hear from people looking to move into our city.”
While strategies to bring businesses together and attracting new companies top Brinda’s plan, she said she chose to start with the city’s image because it’s hindering progress. Other areas she plans to cover with Council in the near future include retaining, expanding and attracting businesses; creating a business-friendly climate; and nurturing sustainability, entrepreneurship and workforce training.
Brinda was joined by James Graham, the city’s economic development specialist. He said economic development is a community-wide initiative, but resources would focus on downtown — the locale for many community events.
“Your downtown is your living room and if your downtown is not healthy, the other areas of your city are called into question,” he said.
So what exactly should Elyria do to better promote itself? Brinda said simply play up the good already happening in the community. Increase the number of volunteer-driven organizations, block watches and community service groups. Expand upon community events people love — holiday lights program, summer concert series and free summer camps.
A push to involve local business in revitalization efforts also is important, the mayor said. As such, Brinda said the city is six to eight weeks away from launching a Downtown Elyria Alliance and soon to follow up with a Midway Area Merchants Association. Both will be member-based groups that she hopes will drive development in the city.
Other strategies include forming an Elyria marketing plan, redesigning the city website and adding signage at the city’s gateways.
Brinda said the message she wants to get across from the simplest additions like landscaping at city boundaries to more important business development roundtables is that Elyria is open to and welcomes business.