If nothing lasts longer than a good first impression, Waterloo should stay high on the minds of prospective businesses for quite some time, thanks to a new economic development Internet site, www.cityofwaterlooiowa.com
The site was developed by Terry L. Butz Creative of Waterloo for the city in cooperation with the Waterloo Industrial Development Association. Each contributed $15,000 to the project.
Butz put the site together in consultation with a WIDA committee. "The city of Waterloo probably has one of the best economic development Web sites, frankly, I've seen anyplace in the country," said Tom Penaluna of CBE Group, a member of a WIDA committee working on the project and a former Waterloo City Council member.
"We owe that to the committee for vision and patience to put this together," Butz said. "There's nobody that can compete with this site."
It took nine months to develop. "Tom's committee went over a lot of ideas. They didn't approve the first run," Butz said. "We had to do a lot of proposals, a lot of ideas to make sure we hit the nail on the head. What they came up with is a winner."
The site is amied at anyone interested in economic development in Waterloo.
The site includes area demographics; available development sites and buildings; economic incentive programs and designated economic development areas; building and zoning regulations and maps; quality of life attractions; utilities; transportation; as well as economic development news and testimonials from businesses which have located here. It links to the Web sites of a number of community attractions and organizations and offers contact information for Waterloo senior planner Noel Anderson at City Hall.
The committee got input from people looking to relocate or open a new facility.
"There isn't too much that isn't here," Penaluna said. "We wanted a Web site that is second to none. This is a Web site that will be copied and utilized by businesses, cities and counties all over the country because of how easy it is to use and all the elements it provides businesses."
"We're not going to lose any (business) leads because they don't know what's here," Butz said. "The bottom line of this whole process is you're going to attract business. Tom's committee is going to generate millions of dollars in revenue to this city because of this site if people get the information they need and relocate here."
It is a site where prospective new or expanding businesses can obtain basic information about economic development in the city, said Lisa Skubal of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance, who worked on the project in an advisory role.
Such Web sites are indispensable for economic development, Skubal said. "Companies, individuals will call and say, 'I need some demographic information and I need it now.' There's nothing better than to be able to say 'This is where you can find it on our Web site.' The moment you tell them that, it's like you gave them a $100 bill."
With the new Web site, a prospect also can have a presentation of information tailored to their needs transmitted to them over the site.
"They can seek information in Washington and we can send them the necessary stuff right off the bat off the Web site," Molinaro said. "You want to communicate directly with people, and that allows us to do it."
The cost of the project was low in comparison to what Butz and his staff invested into the project, WIDA committee member and Warren Transport Inc. president Bob Molinaro said. "There was a lot of Waterloo pride on his part. He wanted to do something for the community," Molinaro said.
"This is a work in progress," Butz said. "As people call in and want to be investing Waterloo, we're going to add new businesses."
"It'll always be updated and changed," Molinaro said. "We're at the point now where it's more than good."
"I think it's great," Mayor Tim Hurley said. "One of my goals when I ran for mayor four years ago was to improve the image of the city, both real and perceived, and this certainly is one of those gateways. I navigated this site and found it very user-friendly. And I know there'll be some continuous improvements on it. So it's a great first step."
It eventually will be linked to a revamped official City of Waterloo Web site, a separate project still under development, Hurley said. A Web service offered by the National Council of Mayors will be in town this summer, filming different aspects of the city for "video streaming" on that revamped site. The mayor also is working with the private sector for assistance to fund the update.
"It will again, complement the economic development" site, Hurley said. "We're going to have an eventually interactive city Web site, to get into the 21st century."