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Company may help revitalize

December 11, 2012
Morning Journal News

EAST LIVERPOOL - A Utah company with a proven track record for revitalization could soon be working to bring business to the city.

Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell last week outlined his plan for the city to contract with Better City, LLC, based in Ogden, Utah and started by the former mayor of that city.

Estell said Matthew Godfrey saw how Ogden was becoming run down. The city was a major railroad stop until the rail lines were removed, "cutting off its lifeline," he said, much the same as East Liverpool after the slow down of local potteries and closure of Crucible Steel.

"They had trouble re-defining themselves," Estell said of Ogden.

Over a period of 15 years, with Godfrey at the helm, the city was revitalized and when he decided to rejoin the private sector, officials from other communities began asking Godfrey for his expertise in revitalizing their towns, leading to formation of Better City, LLC.

Local architect Scott Shepherd was working with a Pittsburgh organization regarding a possible housing study for East Liverpool when he made contact with Godfrey, who was invited to East Liverpool.

Godfrey toured with city officials, state Rep. Craig Newbold and others to see what it has to offer. Since then, Estell has stayed in touch with him and Shepherd managed to raise $25,000 in pledges from local foundations to hire his company.

"It's enough to get us started," Estell said Wednesday, saying it is anticipated more money can be raised.

Godfrey cast a favorable eye on the city, according to Estell, who said the consultant has declined to tackle revitalization in some communities due to lack of potential, but that wasn't how he viewed East Liverpool.

Estell hopes to have a contract prepared by tonight, when council's economic development committee will meet to go over the proposal. If it agrees, the contract will be forward for council's consideration at its Dec. 17 meeting.

If council opts to sign a contract with Better City, initial steps will include gathering demographics and an inventory of available buildings and land, and Estell said, "Once they know what's here, they will start working on what they think is best to locate here. This is not just another study being done."

In other communities, Estell said, one of the changes made was to rental housing, noting, "We can't draw workers without decent housing."

The last comprehensive study of this sort done in the city that Estell could located was completed in the 1960s, which will be provided to the firm, and he said, "They do everything, but we have to be open and willing to work with them."

Preliminary discussion indicated the focus will be on the downtown area and the former Riverview Florist property recently purchased and annexed into the city.

If council approves the contract, the firm could start as early as the first of next year, with the first phase taking between six and 12 months. Estell said that, in some communities, Better City was able to bring in a new business venture within 90 days.

Obviously, the company makes most of its money on such deals by bringing in development, with Estell saying it would receive a small percentage of any business it manages to attract from which the city receives revenue, such as from leasing the Riverview or other city-owned property.

"The city hasn't had anyone working on economic development or revitalization. I'm not trained in economic development. The Port Authority has helped where it can. This is the next step to be proactive," Estell explained.



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