The Grow Licking County Community Improvement Corp. has done just that in a little less than two years, said Licking County commissioner and CIC chairman Tim Bubb.

The Grow Licking County Community Improvement Corp. has done just that in a little less than two years, said Licking County commissioner and CIC chairman Tim Bubb.

"We got off to the correct start," Bubb said. "What you do in the first year sets the standard."

The Grow Licking County CIC, which was established in January 2012, is a nonprofit, public-private partnership serving as the main economic-development agency for Licking County and its municipalities. Its mission is to be the "front door" for economic investors, and to provide a single, comprehensive resource to help businesses expand in or relocate to the area.

"Our organization has accomplished a great deal this past year, both in terms of process and product," CIC economic development director Dan Evers said.

He was hired when the CIC was established.

"With the collaboration of community partners, we've integrated Grow Licking County into the network of assets available for companies expanding in or relocating to our community."

Evers said the CIC began the work of centralizing, expanding and creating uniformity of data-available sites and facilities, demographics, workforce training assets and opportunities, incentive data and other information critical to the site-selection process. The CIC, Evers said, is the initial "point of reference" for access to this information.

Evers said the CIC responded to roughly 70 project leads this past year, 55 of which remain in active consideration.

The CIC also has played an active role in eight publicly announced expansion and relocation projects -- among them the Ascena Retail Group, Menlo Logistics, Owens Corning, RevLocal and SpeedFC -- which will result in the investment of more than $100 million in Licking County.

More than 600 existing jobs will be retained and the projects will result in the creation of more than 900 new jobs, Evers said.

"We have secured commitments for two other projects, not yet ready for public disclosure, which will add additional manufacturing and professional jobs and significant investment to our community," he said.

Evers said the challenges the CIC has encountered along the way are common to many new organizations.

"It always takes longer to ramp up a new organization," he said.

Evers said that includes assembling necessary data and sharing it, developing the network necessary to be able to respond quickly and effectively, generating and sharing the CIC's message within the county and the region.

"Happily, we've been able to make great progress on these fronts," he said. "It is, however, an effort of which we must continue to be mindful."

Looking back on the past several months, Evers doesn't believe there is any one thing he would have done differently.

"That isn't to say that there's no opportunity for improvement," he said. "We must constantly, and continuously look for ways to improve. I don't know that one can ever be completely satisfied, or should be."

Evers said the CIC's goal for next year is to continue to expand and strengthen its network at the county, regional and state levels.

"The key to success is to leverage relationships and resources in ways that differentiate our community from other site-location options," he said.

Ensuring the county has assets and relationships in place, can articulate them effectively and present them consistently is critical, he added.

In the long term, Evers said, the CIC's goal is to identify and actively communicate with key industrial sectors.

"We will initiate focused, ongoing marketing campaigns to expand the message and share the many favorable aspects of locating within Licking County," Evers said.

He said CIC staff will ensure the website and organization provide clients and existing businesses with the most up-to-date, comprehensive site, facility, utility and resource information available.

Bubb said the staff is likely to increase this year, providing Evers assistance.

"(Evers) is like a juggler," Bubb said.

He said Evers currently has to follow up on leads basically on his own.

"We've done the hard stuff," Bubb said, including launching the Grow Licking County website, which, he said, is critical to attracting new development and marketing, both of which are expensive.

Though Bubb said the CIC has been successful, he has had to learn to accept the county won't land every lead.

"You don't get them all," he said. "Some things you can get, but others are out your control on a local level."

Bubb said the competition for economic development in central Ohio is fierce.

"This is the most competitive environment there is," Bubb said. "But I feel good about the first year."