By Travis Gulbrandson
Since it began in 2009, the Vermillion Now! campaign has helped bring several high-profile businesses to town, and with them, hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in new payroll funds.
The Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce & Development Company (VCDC) hopes to continue this trend with a second Vermillion Now! campaign, which is poised to begin when the first one concludes next year.
A presentation on the project was made to the Vermillion City Council during its regular noon meeting Oct. 21.
According to a survey the VCDC commissioned last summer, the community would support a second campaign.
“I personally conducted this survey with 55 individuals here, and we tested several things,” said David Madigan of Convergent Nonprofit, which did the survey. “We were interested in what the economy looked like, and what the projection of the economy may be. We received very positive response and reply to that.
“We were interested in how the public looked at the results of Vermillion one (the first Vermillion Now! campaign). Again, we received very, very positive results on that,” he said.
Convergent also tested a prospectus plan for Vermillion Now! two, and also received a positive response, Madigan said.
“The results of that survey have really laid the groundwork for Vermillion Now! two,” he said. “The response back on Vermillion Now! two – while it was very, very positive – gave us some ideas to do some refinements.”
Madigan and VCDC executive director Steve Howe are now in the process of compiling the results and refinements to come up with the official plan for Vermillion Now! two that they can present to prospective investors.
One of those investors is the City of Vermillion. During the first Vermillion Now! campaign, the city contributed $450,000 in cash and in-kind funds.
Howe said that an increase in funding will be requested for the second campaign – a total of $500,000, $50,000 of which would be made up of in-kind funds.
No formal requests have been made yet, Howe added.
Among the businesses that have expanded or were brought to Vermillion with the help of the first campaign are Alleviant, Eagle Creek and Masaba.
Howe said the campaign is currently working to help improve infrastructure – including street construction, and extending water and sewer into the area – near Brooks Industrial Park on the south side of Highway 50.
“There’s still $175,000 that remains to be allocated,” Howe said. “We do anticipate most of that will be used up with that Commerce Street project, so there’ll be a little bit left over in that fund.”
Howe said that many of these projects may not have happened when they did without the city’s support of Vermillion Now!
“From the infrastructure standpoint, it would have been very difficult to get the Brooks Park property shovel-ready without these funds,” he said. “We wouldn’t have had the cash for that. … The Masaba electrical expansion was under $10,000, and we probably could have covered that with the BBB funds or the private contributions, but we would not have been able to open this industrial park at all without the city allocations.”
Howe said everything “worked out really well.”
“It didn’t require any additional unbudgeted cash or anything of that nature, and second penny is already allocated for public improvement, so we could have essentially an account for those various projects, so it was very convenient for us,” he said. “The city may have ended up doing those anyway, but this ensured they got done.”
Howe added that there is a lot of city oversight with these projects, with two appointees from the city council serving on the VCDC board of directors.
Mayor Jack Powell also served on the Vermillion Now! Advisory Governance Council, from which Howe said permission is required before anything over $10,000 is spent.
“There’s a lot of oversight by the city staff and elected officials over how these funds are spent,” Howe said. “If we have a project, the VCDC board of directors will approve going forward with the project, and then we utilize our funds to pay for the project, and then we come back to the city for reimbursement. It’s not a case of the city laying the money out first. The project has to be completed and meet engineering standards and qualify as a city public improvement project.”
From the standpoint of the City of Vermillion, the second Vermillion Now! campaign would begin in 2015.