LIMA — Six months have gone by since Greater Lima Region, Inc., first formed out of the ashes of the Allen County Visionaries. Today, the nonprofit is considering more initiatives to better reach its goals of adding 22,000 new jobs, advancing the business environment and pushing Lima to be one of the most livable cities in the Midwest.
Jeff Sprague, who is now heading the group under the title of President/CEO, said the major difference between his work with GLRI and the Allen Economic Development Group — which he is also president/CEO of — is that GLRI is advancing workforce development strategies from a regional instead of county level.
Sprague said although the AEDG has been successful in attracting $2 million in regional investments, adding 1,702 jobs and retaining 4,057 jobs, Lima is still having trouble increasing its population and staying competitive against areas that are growing by leaps and bounds. GLRI is an additional tool to up the ante.
A broader outlook into workforce is GLRI’s first step, since Lima already acts as a workforce hub for an eight-county region. Broader strategies may be helpful when attracting skilled workers that are much-needed at major Lima manufacturing companies, Sprague said.
GLRI will also be branching into community development, especially housing, to attract the demographic group known as “young professionals,” or 20- and 30-year-old individuals with college degrees. Sprague said young people who fit the criteria are looking for loft-style rentals in downtown areas, and he is working to ensure investments into such housing become economically viable in the region.
Recent successes in the area of housing, Sprague said, were agreements made by the Allen Water District and Allen County to reduce their water and sewer tap-in fees by $2,000 each. He said he hoped the City of Lima would reduce its fees as well.
Other initiatives include having candid conversations about the future of Lima’s retail situation and finding ways to communicate the events and attractions of the city. Sprague said he’s been talking with the Lima Mall to understand what can be done to weather lowered retail sales brought on by online shopping.
The GLRI, through the work of Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce President Jed Metzger, is beginning discussions with other chambers in the eight-county region to better promote the benefits of living and working in Lima.
“AEDG performs at a high level, but we have to take it up a notch,” Sprague said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.