The Franklin County Development Council’s new executive director said the county has many selling points, which drew him to the position.
Jonathan Roberts spent 15 years as the Spring Hill city administrator and sees so much potential for growth in Ottawa and the county.
“It is a good time for the Franklin County region,” Roberts, who began his new post Monday, said. “It has a good strong local business core. The school district is amazing. The high school [additions] will be a fantastic asset to the community. Proximity Park is going to be a magnificent project for the county as a whole. That is what I have been spending so much time studying. It is going to be one of the major drives for this position in the coming years. This is a magnificent opportunity for the county and community.”
He said people who work throughout the county show their love and enthusiasm for the area.
“One of the things interesting about this community is the number of volunteer groups, people pitching in to accomplish these tasks and devote their time to it,” Roberts said. “That is astounding. Legacy Square is fantastic when looking at the short time span that project has been on the table. They are less than a half-a-millon dollars of achieving their goal. It is going to be great. Community-driven projects mean a lot to people when they are shopping for sites. It shows what a community is capable of and commitment to the area and region. The strength of the school district — which recently passed a school bond — that is a big thing. Those are all things that bodes well for a community. The community is reaping the benefits of that.”
Roberts spent the first few days on the job meeting various groups and individuals.
“I have had the chance to speak to a number of people in the community and to review a lot of the work that has already been done,” Roberts said. “I am excited to pick up where my predecessor left off. There are some really exciting things going on in the community and it is going to be great to be involved.”
Lisa Johnson, FCDC board president, said the organization looks to continue to expand in the next few years.
“We [gained] a lot of momentum the past few years with Proximity Park and our existing businesses,” she said. “We are excited to have Jonathan here to help move us forward. He comes in with a solid understanding of public policies and the things cities and counties have to consider as we look at moving businesses forward and attracting businesses. FCDC is a partnership of Franklin County and Ottawa. We feel he has a great breadth of experience to be able to work with our organization.”
Roberts was part of a growth period for Spring Hill. During his tenure, he was in charge of economic development and said those economic development initiatives ranged from residential to commercial development and retention.
“I worked quite a bit on industrial development, mostly on industrial attraction,” Roberts said. “I worked with the Chamber and local businesses on what they can do to enhance their business and grow in the community.”
Roberts said his city administrator experience helps him understand the inner workings of city and county governments.
“It gives me some common ground to talk to a lot of people,” Roberts said. “It gives me the privilege of understanding development from the ground up, utility provisions, public services and tax base. Understanding everything about a development.”
Johnson said marketing Proximity Park will be a major priority for FCDC as well as bringing new business and jobs to the community.
“We identified workforce development as a priority,” she said. “We also have a large group of existing businesses that support our community and our huge source of employment.”
Roberts and Johnson said there will be a review of the FCDC strategic plan in the near future.
“It will help layout how we are going to proceed over the next couple of years,” Roberts said. “It is exciting to go through those things so early in my tenure here, so I can get started with a fresh map of where we need to go.”