Council receives economic development update

Members of the O’Fallon City Council received an economic development update at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, including a run down of events planned this winter at the new O’Fallon Station building. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Martha Stoffel)

By Martha Stoffel

O’FALLON – O’Fallon’s economic development was the focus of Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. Council members were presented the new economic development website by St. Louis-based branding and marketing firm Atomic Dust, marketing analytics and updates on key economic development areas within the city.

In December, council approved a contract with Atomic Dust of $42,000 which included an audit of the current economic development website, marketing materials and strategies, instructions on marketing best practices, brand guidelines, and information/sell sheets. The contract was project-oriented and will not have an ongoing retainer fee or monthly costs. 

Atomic Dust has trained city staff to provide the ongoing maintenance to the website internally. The staff will also be responsible for all other implementation of the strategies developed by Atomic Dust. 

Mike Spakowski (Partner/Creative Director), Rich Heend (Senior Copywriter) and Erika Cruse (Senior Account Executive) from Atomic Dust spoke to the council about the creation of a “brand language,” the “power of the brand” and the need to differentiate O’Fallon from neighboring communities that have similar community statistics. 

The city’s new economic development branding of “Build it Here” translates in the website’s (www.ofallonillinois.org) theme of O’Fallon’s ability to help you build your business or build your life here. 

City staff also presented statistics they have received from the retail consulting, market research and development firm The Retail Coach. The firm partners cities with potential retail development opportunities. They have specifically provided data using cell phone locations services for the areas of Central Park Drive, St. Elizabeth’s and the O’Fallon Sports Park. The data collected is mapped to track where visitors of those areas return. This allows the city to see the regional impact of amenities within the city and the geographical location of those being served.

The retail services along Central Park Drive received visitors primarily from the Metro East, along the I-64/Highway 50 corridor. The hospital had a service area that extended relatively equally to both sides of the river. The Sports Park data was specific to soccer tournaments and had the farthest reach, extending throughout most of the Midwest.

Speaking to specific economic development areas within the city, staff provided information regarding the Sports Park, Downtown O’Fallon, Interstate Corridor and the Reider Road area. 

Since the construction of the turf fields at the Sports Park, area hotels have reported 2,368 new room nights with a projected 22 percent increase in hotel use for the first year. To date, there have been 85,805 participants in tournaments alone at the Sports Park since the new fields were finished. 

O’Fallon Station construction is ongoing, with staff anticipating winter events to be held there starting in November. With the new City Hall parking long and the upcoming transition of the Metro bus lane downtown, additional parking of 124 spots will have been added once O’Fallon Station is completed. 

The addition of St. Elizabeth’s hospital has brought 1,300 new employees and 250,000 new visitors to O’Fallon. Two new hotels are planned for that area, the Springhill Suites is currently under construction and the building permits have been approved for a Hampton Inn. 

The area between I-64 exits 19 and 21 is known as the Mid-America Commerce Center, and staff is hopeful new marketing strategies and analytics from Atomic Dust and The Retail Coach will result in the development of that area along Reider Road. The area presents challenges with lacking infrastructure and sewer. City staff is working on presenting council with suggestions and plans going forward to make the area more desirable to a variety of businesses.