Business and job growth, work force development and civic pride and community enhancement are priorities for Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland in 2017.

Business and job growth, work force development and civic pride and community enhancement are priorities for Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland in 2017.

"The continuation of business and job growth is my No. 1 goal for my term," he said. "We created or retained over 1,620 jobs (in 2016). Zulily brought 600 jobs to the table."

The expansion of Reliant Capital Solutions LLC in Gahanna in 2017 is poised to add 93 new jobs to the city's economy. It will also mark the first commercial office building that has been constructed in the city in nearly a decade.

"It has been a whirlwind," Kneeland said. "We visited close to 105 businesses. From a goal perspective, I will challenge my team to double that if at all possible."

The visits help the city identify needs.

"If a lease is expiring, the earlier we know, the quicker we can engage with property owners, so they aren't looking outside Gahanna," Kneeland said. "We've been able to be more pro-active in helping them stay in Gahanna."

With business and job growth, he added, the development of the southeast area known as the Buckles tract off Tech Center Drive will be a focus.

"We're working with a developer now and hope to announce in early 2017 for development and job growth that will focus on medical uses," Kneeland said.

Looking at workforce development, he said the city wants to work in collaboration with the schools to help meet needs.

"Ninety-five percent of the folks we've met with said they had problems attracting candidates and qualified people to hire as employees," Kneeland said.

He said Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett started making visits to businesses with city officials in August.

"He's committed," Kneeland said. "He can talk about business internships. If we have a relationship with HR departments, we can communicate with the right places to help them with recruitment."

Local organizations

Kneeland said a Gahanna Arts Council, involving 25 to 30 residents, is expected to launch soon as part of a civic pride initiative.

"There are new community members who haven't been active in city things," he said. "They are actively working to bring the group to fruition."

Kneeland said the group is working on a charter, and he expects it to define a structure in early 2017.

He also anticipates future beautification projects through Make Gahanna Yours, a civic pride group, and work to invigorate the Gahanna Lions, Kiwanis and Jaycees.

"They have struggled with declining memberships," Kneeland said. "People like the Lions funded things like the fireworks on July 4. When the membership started to wane, they couldn't raise the money to do the things expected."

The 2016 fireworks were made possible thanks to sponsorships, he added.

"We want to invigorate them, maybe shift the membership," Kneeland said. "It's a difficult task. We need to get them active again and get the younger generation involved."

Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau

After an exciting and successful 2016, the team at Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau is energized to begin a new year that is filled with innovative projects designed to draw even more visitors -- and their spending dollars -- to generate economic impact for Gahanna businesses, said Laurie Jadwin, GCVB executive director.

Due to outstanding response in 2016, the Visit Gahanna team will begin 2017 developing a new Official Visitors Guide for Gahanna.

More than 29,000 guides were mailed or distributed to potential visitors in 46 states in 2016 in response to requests for information that were generated from advertisements placed by Visit Gahanna in national and international magazines.

The new guide is expected to be on the shelves by the end of April, Jadwin said.

In conjunction with the new guide, Visit Gahanna has contracted to develop a new mobile app that will be available as an information resource and that will create more promotion for area businesses, she added.

The app will enable visitors to find nearby restaurants, shops and attractions more quickly. A section of the app also will be devoted to Gahanna's premier event -- the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival -- enhancing the festival experience for attendees.

Jadwin said an "Herbal Cocktail Trail" will debut in early February, recognizing Gahanna's distinction as the Herb Capital of Ohio.

An offshoot of Visit Gahanna's Herbal Trail, the Herbal Cocktail Trail is a new "experience," she said.

The trail will feature eight to 10 local restaurants that will create a signature herbal cocktail to be offered.

Jadwin said Visit Gahanna is also planning to host Gahanna's first "Volunteer Expo" in an effort to highlight opportunities in and around Gahanna.

Similar to a job fair, the expo would be open to Gahanna-based organizations that have volunteer opportunities -- whether for an event, for membership in a service organization or to assist nonprofits in need of volunteer support.

Organizations will be invited to have a presence, and guests will have an opportunity to learn about how they can get involved.

The Volunteer Expo not only is in line with Kneeland's vision to spur more community engagement, Jadwin said, but it will help with Visit Gahanna's efforts to encourage students and adults to fill the more than 800 volunteer spots that are needed annually to present the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival.

The 2017 event will mark its 19th anniversary on June 16-18. The full musical line-up is expected to be released by Visit Gahanna later this month.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla