Dublin Working to Ensure Business Community Growth

If initiating infrastructure improvements, launching a citywide broadband network, and surveying its workforce are any indication, Dublin officials are vigilant about encouraging growth and entrepreneurialism.

Read our interview with Dana McDaniel, the city’s deputy city manager/director of economic development, to learn what he considers Dublin’s greatetst assets, which areas the city is focused on redeveloping, and how the award-winning Dublin Entrepreneurial Center might be expanded in the near future.

Melanie McIntyre: Last year, “BusinessWeek” named Dublin the top small city in Ohio in which to start a business. What makes Dublin so ideal?

Dana McDaniel: The city offers location, convenience and ease of maneuverability with three interstate access points, a state-of-the-art road and bridge system, a healthy balance between commercial and residential development, and sustained availability of Class A office buildings and development sites.

Our business sites provide great visibility and exposure among excellent corporate neighbors, including IGS Energy, Online Computer Library Center, Smiths Medical, CareWorks, Wendy’s International, Nationwide, Ashland Inc. and Cardinal Health, to name a few.

Our road system and location provides easy access to local airports, 14 hotels located within Dublin, and connectivity to many of Central Ohio’s top residential areas.

Dublin’s energized corporate climate attracts startup ventures, family-owned businesses, and national and international corporations. The Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the largest suburban chamber in the state of Ohio, provides a supportive business network, as well as a variety of networking opportunities.

Dublin’s steady growth is advanced by its economic diversity. The local economy is free from domination by any one activity, public or private. Land is reasonably priced in and around Dublin, and includes visible freeway frontage.

In addition, the creation of the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center has provided on-site resources and training programs for anyone interested in starting a business.

MM: Along those lines, the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center has been critical to fostering small business development in Dublin. What would you like the DEC to accomplish in the future?

DM: The DEC’s mission is to support the creation and development of new technologies, businesses and jobs. In one year, the DEC went from housing zero to 42 companies, including 11 “green” startups. It has received international recognition, including an Excellence in Economic Development award from the International Economic Development Council at its annual conference in Columbus this week. The DEC has become the new model for nurturing new businesses.

Its success has led to the creation of the Green Integrator to advance green companies and we are currently exploring options for a second location and an international business center to be housed at the DEC.

Ultimately, we see the DEC continuing to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in our community through the fulfillment of its mission: new technologies, businesses and jobs.

MM: What is the city doing to attract and retain businesses?

DM: In Dublin, we value the importance of our business community. Whether it’s widening a road to help traffic flow during business travel peak hours, partnering with a business to provide better access into and out of their facility, working with a company to develop a mutually beneficial incentive program, or developing an entirely new site for commerce in the city, Dublin is committed to working with businesses to bring them to the city and to keep them here.

In Dublin, businesses are not just located here, but are valued, contributing members of the community. The city has forged strong partnerships with its corporate community, which provides sponsorships and scores of volunteers for special events. The city partnered with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a young professionals organization, NextGen Dublin, and its Leadership Academy, and encourages corporate participation.

Dublin markets its amenities to businesses through a national advertising campaign, a website −DublinEconDev.com − and interactions with site selectors. For the past three years, Dublin has received global recognition from the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum for its robust broadband infrastructure. Through this network, the city has forged relationships with other Top Seven and Smart21 communities around the world.

MM: What impact has DubLink had on Dublin’s business community?

DM: DubLink is a multi-conduit broadband network deployed through fiber optics and wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi. The availability of a comprehensive broadband service and the addition of municipal-owned broadband garnered an international reputation for Dublin through the Intelligent Community Forum. Dublin was recognized by the ICF as a Smart21 Community in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and as a Top Seven Intelligent Community in 2010 for its innovations in technology.

Utilizing the DubLink network, the city of Dublin joined forces with Ohio’s Third Frontier Network, now known as OARnet, in establishing the Central Ohio Research Network, or CORN, linking education and commerce for research and economic development. Through CORN, DubLink connects directly to the Ohio Supercomputer giving businesses direct access.

In addition, the city provides businesses with additional capacity through multiple providers. Broadband has become the most vital utility for businesses. Through the city’s fiber, companies can interconnect various locations carrying traffic directly to off-site data centers and offering cloud computing capabilities for multiple facilities.

DubLink’s Wi-Fi network offers affordable and highly mobile capabilities, which are accessible city-wide.

MM: When was DubLink launched?

DM:Following the deregulation of telecommunications companies in 1996, the city passed a right-of-way management ordinance, installed a multi-conduit system, and deployed its own fiber network known as DubLink. This network would lay the groundwork and serve as the backbone for the city’s technological advances over the next decade and beyond.

DubLink is a public-private partnership between the city and the Fishel Company, owners of Columbus FiberNet. DubLink has provided the backbone for not only fiber connections to businesses, but it also has enabled the city to connect to the Ohio Supercomputer Center, research institutes, universities, and to deploy Wi-Fi.

It also has enabled “virtual” office space to become a reality. Through an innovative plan introduced in 2009 and approved by Dublin City Council, it may also provide a non-tax revenue stream. The ordinance allows the city to lease up to 12 fibers or six pairs of dark fibers in the DubLink network.

MM: The Five-Year Capital Improvements Program was approved by Dublin City Council on Sept. 13. Do you think the program will have a significant impact on economic development in Dublin?

DM: The 2011-2015 Capital Improvements Program designates $70.1 million in funding for transportation, parks, recreation, facilities and utilities improvement projects, including $27.6 million in projects next year. Emerald Parkway, the Emerald Crossing bridge over U.S. 33, and the Dublin Community Recreation Center are just a few examples of projects that were completed ahead of schedule, received national recognition, and continue to benefit daily those who live and work here. The city has approximately $16.6 million in CIP projects either completed, in progress, or planned for this year.

Other benefits that continue to attract residents and businesses are the well-maintained roadways and the city’s commitment to infrastructure. Running parallel to I-270 is the nearly completed Emerald Parkway, a convenient alternative to I-270 for local traffic and one of Dublin’s capital improvement investments. Designed to connect the community, provide an efficient roadway through Dublin, and maximize access to land with I-270 frontage, Emerald Parkway is tangible evidence of Dublin’s sound planning and progressive capital improvement policies.

Forward design, planning and investment in infrastructure –including roadways, water, sewer, utilities and broadband– have set the conditions for economic development in Dublin.

MM: Are there any projects in the development pipeline that you are especially excited about?

DM: The city is currently taking a comprehensive look at its main artery: the Bridge Street Corridor. We are examining development and redevelopment opportunities, including the introduction of a mixed-use, higher density, walkable environment within the city’s core. Efforts like these present opportunities to make the community more sustainable, create new housing options, and continue to attract and retain a knowledge workforce.

In addition, the city is continuing to set the conditions for its planned 1,300-acre Innovation Park to accommodate technology segments like bio-medical, manufacturing or customer service, advanced transportation systems, distance learning, nanotechnologies, telemedicine, e-commerce, and information technology initiatives. Dublin is working to create a more concise area plan and vision for Innovation Park in cooperation with residents and landowners.

MM: How have the results of the 2009 Workforce Survey affected how the city assists its business community?

DM: Despite a tough economy, an overwhelming majority of Dublin companies surveyed said they did not have to reduce their workforce. Even better news is that 54 percent anticipate hiring more employees over the next three years.

The businesses surveyed indicated they are planning to grow their workforce in Dublin. We are finding that, especially with small businesses, their biggest workforce challenge is finding the time to train employees.

The city is continuing to work with businesses and the education community to facilitate discussion and dialogue to assure a skilled and talented workforce now and into the future.