By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON — —
The city council is moving forward on a plan to help housing builders and developers take advantage of the housing opportunities in the city.
“This is an economic development program,” City Councilman Todd Piper said Monday during a workshop session to discuss marketing plans for housing development. “This is a plan to increase population — increase the tax base.”
Joe Zanola of the Zanola Company LLC presented a plan for marketing the city for housing development — and the council said there are several local developers who are ready to move forward.
“We have some people who are ready to move forward with plans,” Mayor Mary Jane Chesley said. “It’s time for them to come to city hall and get things moving.”
Zanola is expected to present a professional services contract to the council for its next regular meeting on Jan. 22 which will outline the portions of the marketing plan he presented which will move forward immediately. Zanola said he will be available to work with local developers in helping finalize individual development plans and help get developers in touch with third party resources, depending on the needs of individual projects.
Earlier, Zanola identified the need for 350 to 750 housing units based past and expected job creation in the area. In order to reach out to developers and builders to address the need, Zanola said he recommended a web-based outreach program.
The council directed Zanola to prepare a contract for completing the concepts of branding, graphics and messaging; provide 2013 refreshed data, demographics and analysis for marketing; create a templates kit and style standards for scripts, responses, letters, e-mails, etc., for communications guide and foundation; establish 2013-14 goals and measurements and preview goals for 2015-2017; gather testimonials to enlighten builders and developers to Mt. Vernon’s quality of life and appeal as a positive growing community; establish a training manual for marketing materials and overall program and provide training sessions and web video for those involved in new home communication; finalize recommendations for basic steps for home building and development and publish on paper and online the Mt. Vernon Guide for Residential Developers and Builders.
In addition, Zanola will include the development and launching of new Just Right Web site and establish monthly e-mails, blogs and web updates to be enticing for building pros; establish an ever-growing target, prospect and referrals database; provide outreach blitz to reconnect and advance current interested projects; and provide personal outreach, follow-up and scheduling with high value prospects.
The items to be forwarded immediately are not all the suggestions made by Zanola for the program; however, members of the council decided to re-evaluate the remaining items suggested by Zanola in eight to 10 weeks.
The costs associated with the items which will be presented to the council have an estimated price range between $46,560 and $64,210.
Piper asked if there were any plans for incentives for developers at this point, which Zanola said was “premature.”
“At this point we aren’t far enough along in the process to identify the types of projects which may need incentives,” City Manager Ron Neibert said. “Marketing and response will dictate if at some point we need incentives.”
“A developer looks for marketing opportunity, cooperation and support from the community, low risk and opportunity for return,” Zanola further explained. “Incentives may or may not be needed to make a deal work.”
Chesley summed up the information on incentives by calling it “an economic development approach.”
“In other words, the incentives — if any — could change with the project and type of housing,” Chesley said. “It’s like an economic development approach in that we work with each development separately.”
Several local housing professionals were in the audience on Monday to find out more about the marketing program, including David Parker, who gave Zanola a plan for his development at Woodglen Acres.
“We’ve been asking for this for a long time,” Parker told the council. “This is a big step in the right direction. I think in a year from now, you will be proud of what happened in this meeting.”