StarTek Inc. was seeking a site in greater Cincinnati to open a call center and was still considering multiple locations when it had a problem pop up in the meantime — where to store some furniture while the company was settling on a final location.
Hamilton, already one of the sites on the business services company’s short list, immediately shot its hand in the air, so to speak. The city staff along with the director of the CORE Fund had an empty basement in the former Elder-Beerman building that would work great for storing furniture.
And when StarTek officials visited the city again to see the storage space, city leaders didn’t let them leave without showing them the building plans already mocked up for the call center in the upper levels of the same building at 150 High St.
That’s the story, as the city’s economic development staff tells it, of how Hamilton landed StarTek and 682 new jobs. Company officials as of Monday could not be reached for comment. The call center is set to open by the end of the year after renovations, according to Hamilton.
“I’ve lived in areas that have wanted to bring back their downtown; it is not easy,” said City Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson. “And to have been here in a period of time where it has happened as fast as it has…I mean, it just does not happen that quick.”
Hamilton officials first made real contact with StarTek in November 2014, as the company was looking at several possible sites in the region, but only won them over at a two-day meeting in late January.
“We’ve gone from cold call to public announcement in three weeks,” said CORE Fund Executive Director Mike Dingeldein.
Dingeldein said that once the meeting was set up in late January, everyone moved quickly to make sure they had all the answers for StarTek representatives, including a full-floor layout detailing every last amenity the company would need, fit inside the floor space, and answers to possible questions they might have, whether about utilities or fiber connectivity.
“In this particular case, we had answers for them, like, yesterday, and it made it very difficult for them to look at other locations,” Gunderson said.
He added that having representatives from each city department during the two-day meeting made a huge difference.
“They needed redundant power; (Public Utility Director) Doug Childs knew where the power could come from. They need fiber? We have fiber lining the street,” said Dingeldein.
Gunderson said that perks such as the Great Miami Valley YMCA being down the street and low-rate parking at the George McDulin Memorial Parking Garage helped seal the deal. City Manager Joshua Smith said that the city would be providing 350 parking spots at a discounted rate to the company in the garage, and Dingeldein said that the city offered to set up electric to the building at no cost.
Gunderson and Dingeldein agreed that this was a prime example of the economic development building blocks the city has been putting together, working the way they should, between using their public utilities as an economic development driver to establishing the CORE Fund as a means to have site control and loan opportunities for some of the city’s most important vacant buildings.
“But we had no idea (the project) would land like that,” Dingeldein said.
Gunderson credited the city’s strategic plan, which put every city department and every city employee in a position to be an economic development driver.
“The reason why I think we have had a lot of success is the leadership on top, which makes a huge difference,” he continued. “They set up goals, realistic goals, they provide a path through which to do it, and we succeed because everyone’s running in the same direction.”
Launched in December 2012, the Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts (CORE) Fund is a private nonprofit that has raised more than $6 million to acquire blighted properties and make non-traditional loans to developers for projects in the area of High and Main streets.