Local leaders were recently briefed on the progress of Berea’s economic development efforts, which are designed to bolster existing businesses and industries, help cultivate small businesses, and create conditions to attract new retail and industrial operations to Berea.
The presentation took place during a meeting of the Berea City Council’s Economic Development Committee. Council members and representatives from the Berea Industrial Authority listened to presentations from Berea Business Development Director Donna Angel, Kentucky Small Business Center regional director Vallorie Henderson, and economic development consultants Lucas Witt and Lindsey Ransdell of Fortune Realty.
Angel began the presentations by revealing that since taking her post at the city in early January, she has consulted with approximately 18 local businesses, including contacting property owners on Chestnut Street. Angel said the city hopes to encourage commercial property owners along Chestnut to improve their storefronts with the goal of making that district more attractive to both consumers and prospective business owners. Angel noted the effort is consistent with the city’s recently adopted Berea Strategic Plan, and that property owners have so far been excited about the project.
On the retail front, Angel reported there have been several requests to bring a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise back to Berea, leading her to contact a representative of KFC. As a result of that meeting, Angel said the city will soon be making franchise ownership requirements available for prospective buyers.
In other developments, Angel reported showing two industrial spaces for lease, including warehouse space, and she consulted with a representative of Bluegrass Community Technical College about the possibility of obtaining funding for training classes that can serve clients in the Berea Industrial Park.
Highlighting the city’s efforts to encourage small business growth, Vallorie Henderson, of the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, updated officials on her efforts to open a Berea office of the KSBDC in Berea. Henderson has been working in the Tolle building while the city prepares her office in City Hall. Having recently relocated to Berea from Louisville, the Berea College alumnus said she is focused on providing business development services to the region, but will specifically focus on ways to serve Berea’s artisans.
“We will focus on Berea because we have said that the center is the first in the United States that serves creative entrepreneurs. But it’s not the only people I want to work with,” Henderson said, noting she has been contacted by locals who want to launch more conventional small businesses, like roofing and accounting. Henderson added she is glad to be back in Berea.
Lucas Witt and Lindsey Ransdell of Fortune Realty presented the industrial element of the city’s economic development strategy, outlining how they will help local government improve relationships with existing industries while attracting new ones.
Both having worked in the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet, Lucas and Ransdell noted that an important element of their job as consultants to the City of Berea is to make officials in Frankfort aware of Berea’s desirability as a destination for prospective industries. They also aim to make existing industries aware of state programs that can benefit their operations. Additionally, Ransdell noted she has visited most local industries, and plans additional visits to touch base with companies to determine their needs. In cooperation with Berea Business Development, she will also help launch a Lunch and Learn roundtable series, allowing managers to discuss issues facing local industry.
Ransdell noted work will continue to make Berea more fertile for industrial growth, but that the city already has a good foundation for success.
“The biggest thing you have in your favor is that you have a thriving industrial park with lots that are full, and businesses like Hyster-Yale,” Ransdell said. “If you can drive into an industrial park and see an existing business that’s in the midst of construction, that says these people are happy. These people are making a million-dollar investment in your community and they’re not going to go anywhere.”
In other business, the Economic Development Committee retired to executive session to discuss a possible transaction concerning property. No action was taken, officials reported.
In addition to committee chairman Jim Davis, the meeting was attended by Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley and Berea City Council members Ronnie Terrill, David Rowlette, and Steve Caudill Also in attendance were members of the Berea Industrial Authority, including Larry Harrison, Diane Zekind, Beverly Harkleroad, Heather Reasor and Greg Lakes.