WCR Incorporated, an industry leader in heat exchanger parts and service, has announced plans to open a location in Seward, Nebraska to help service production facilities in the Midwest, particularly the many ethanol plants that dot Nebraska and the rest of the Corn Belt. With groundbreaking in June and a projection to be operational by November of 2022, it can seem like projects like this happen almost overnight. But that couldn’t be further from the truth in this case, and that stands as a reminder of the importance of patience for anyone involved with economic development.
Brian Vasa of NPPD Economic development had his first conversation with WCR vice president Jeff Newman in 2004.
“They (WCR) were a cold call lead from a trade show that year. We would do follow up emails and then nothing until the next trade show we would see them at,” Vasa said. “Each time, Jeff would want to take another run at it but it was always the barrier of convincing corporate they needed a Nebraska location.”
Maintaining that relationship with the company through Newman was key to eventually landing this project, but that took more than just consistent contact. Providing real value to a prospect, even when results don’t seem to be coming, helps to keep their attention and focus over the long term, and Vasa did that with a combination of his contacts and NPPD’s resources.
“Each time he would explain where they were at in the buildout and that they needed a Nebraska location. Early years I would call into the office and our research group would take the building request and have something back to me by the end of the day. As technology progressed I could have it on my iPad within minutes.” Vasa said. “We also connected the company with ethanol plants utilizing our relationships to strengthen our position on recruiting them to Nebraska.”
This long-term strategy led to the opportunity for Seward to secure WCR coming to town, and those benefits are not lost Jonathan Jank, president and CEO of Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership.
“I feel a great sense of gratefulness that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Jank. “So many have come before me that have done such great work to give our state a shot at these bigger projects.”
The story of WCR coming to Seward is a story of being persistent and capitalizing on every contact opportunity. And while a lesson can be learned from that persistence, it is important to remember the uniqueness of each individual situation. An 18-year build up is far from common and being positioned to strike at projects sooner than later will remain the best practice for economic development.
“It’s highly unlikely a recruitment of this length will be repeated. Today most senior level personnel move around, so you start over with new executives, but Jeff was there and remained our contact,” Vasa said. “We can bring projects to communities, but the community has to make it work. Seward brought in a developer to bring all the pieces together.”