Combining efforts in Ravenna

By Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Aiming to attract business enterprises to the city's central business district, the chamber is trying to orchestrate a financial partnership between public and private enterprise to encourage such influx. The initiative also seeks to help local businesses expand by acquiring loans and real estate for such ventures.

To these ends, the chamber sponsored a seminar Tuesday for the community's civic leaders concerning the community's strengths, weaknesses and economic potential.

"The downtown area could benefit from a joint private/public venture involving local businesses and the city, township and county governments," Bellino said. "Ideally, we could create an arrangement where these parties would contribute matching funds to projects that would benefit the Ravenna community, both city and township."

Modeled after an approach taken by "Main Street of Wooster" an independent committee that gained national recognition for its efforts to revitalize that city the initiative seeks to assemble a committee of community leaders to design an appropriate economic strategy that would play to the city's strengths, Bellino said. In addition, the committee would appoint a manager to administer the venture.

For example, if the committee decided that the city's strength was in its antique shops, the committee might aim to attract businesses that would compliment such shops, said Gail Sommers, a representative of the Center for Public Administration and Public Policy in Kent, who participated in Tuesday's seminar.

"Our idea is not to replace the development approaches already in motion, but to complement them with an emphasis on the central business district," Bellino said.

While noting the importance of communication between the city and Ravenna Township, Bellino stressed the importance of growth in downtown Ravenna, which he called the "heart and soul" of business enterprise in the greater Ravenna community.

Not only would a "strong nucleus" aid the city by enhancing services, atmosphere and tax revenue, it would also aid the township, Bellino said.

"The township is growing, and it is important for new residents to feel as though there are restaurants and entertainment close by. These sorts of things encourage them to stay."

Two elements are necessary for the initiative to work, Bellino said. First, the venture requires community input: residents must make it clear what kind of businesses they wish to see in the community. Second, it requires the support of county, city and township officials support he called "indispensable."

"Things won't happen overnight," Bellino said. " But with good planning and persistence, we really hope things could flourish."

The Chamber will sponsor a meeting in September for people interested in learning more about the venture.

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