CIRCLEVILLE - Community leaders took the next step in the America's Best Communities competition Friday by selecting a consultant to help develop the plan that will be entered in the next phase of the competition.
The Montrose Group was approved Friday at the board meeting of Pickaway Progress Partnership (P3) to help develop a community revitalization and economic development plan for the city as it vies for the $3 million prize.
The city will use the $50,000 grant money from being named as a quarter-finalist in the competition to pay for the consultant and the development plan, according to Ryan Scribner, executive director of P3.
"They left it open as to how we could spend the money, but they advised hiring a consultant or implementing studies or surveys," Scribner said. "This is such a time-consuming project, we wanted to hire someone who is able to really spend their time and do it well, so that initial round of grant money will be used to engage a good, professional consultant to move full speed ahead with the planning effort."
The plan now under development will involve the core group of leaders involved in the initial application along with the consultant to engage the community in different ways and create a framework of how Circleville will attack economic development for the next five to 10 years, he said.
The core group includes Scribner; Don McIlroy, Circleville mayor; Amy Elsea, president of the Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce; Kirk McMahon, superintendent of Circleville City Schools; John Ankrom, city service director; Dr. Mark Smith, president of Ohio Christian University; Tim Colburn, CEO of Berger Health System; and Chad Davie, a consultant for P3.
America's Best Communities is a multi-stage, three-year competition that will provide $4 million in seed money and other support to assist communities as they develop new economic growth strategies. The top three communities -- those with the most innovative proposals being effectively implemented -- will share a total of $6 million in prize money. The winning community will be awarded $3 million, with $2 million for second place and $1 million for third.
The contest is sponsored by Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel.
Officials from Frontier recently announced IBEX Global, a leading provider of contact center services and other business process solutions, will "adopt" Circleville and serve as a strategic adviser to help develop a comprehensive strategy to accelerate the revival of the local economy and improve quality of life.
IBEX contributed $15,000 of the city's initial $50,000 award for being named one of the Top 50 communities in the country.
"By investing in America's small towns and rural communities, we'll strengthen the entire national economy and accelerate recovery," said Greg Rajchel, senior vice president of North American operations for IBEX Global. "It's a chance for us to partner with the Circleville community to help them move forward along the path to prosperity."
Tom Travis, general manager of Frontier Communications, said the company launched the competition to help enhance quality of life and jump-start economic revitalization in the communities it serves.
"We are excited to see the impact it already is making, bringing together communities like Circleville to develop a collective vision for sustainable growth and community development," Travis said. "With the support of partners like IBEX Global, America's Best Communities will help small towns and cities achieve a stronger, more resilient future for generations to come."
The 50 quarter-finalist communities have a deadline of Nov. 6 to shape and refine their revitalization plans to be considered for additional investment. In early 2016, 15 semi-finalists will be selected to attend the America's Best Communities summit to present their strategies. Eight finalists then will be awarded $100,000 to continue implementation of their plans.
"I think this contest is fantastic for the city, and I can't wait to submit our plan and hopefully move forward to the next round," Scribner said. "Hopefully we will get the $100,000 to implement it."
The top three competition winners will be announced in April of 2017.
In May, local officials spent a week promoting its quarter-finalist status at various events, including a rally at Circleville Elementary School, an appearance at Berger Health System's Touch-A-Truck event, an announcement at the Frontier Communications building downtown and an appearance at Ohio Christian University.
The following is a promotional video of the media blitz, courtesy of Sid Liming and CGTV.