Since taking office in 2016, Mayor Tom Kneeland has made economic development a top priority of his administration.

He has implemented an aggressive Business Visitation Program, which has led to more than 170 visits with Gahanna businesses. The goal of the Business Visitation Program is threefold:

1) Thank the business for choosing Gahanna.

2) Introduce key government officials to the business in an effort to build a stronger working relationship.

3) Learn more about the business to improve the local regulatory environment, facilitate connections with other businesses in the community and provide any economic developments services required to assist the business.

The city of Gahanna and Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District both share in a commitment to identify ways to improve the local economy in Gahanna.

As a result of this commitment, Steve Barrett, the Gahanna-Jefferson district superintendent, has actively participated in these business visits as well. Having both the city and schools proactively meeting with businesses together has created a unique experience that helps to set Gahanna apart from other communities within central Ohio.

Giving a business direct access to both the mayor and school superintendent has helped to change the conversation. It has allowed the city and schools to better understand the company's need for a talented workforce and gives the business a voice in shaping the city's workforce development efforts.

These business conversations are helping the city and school district establish a more effective strategy that links Gahanna businesses with local residents and students.

This collaborative effort is just starting to take shape, but it is already showing signs of success. The Gahanna Chamber of Commerce has taken a lead in this effort and is leveraging its resources within the community. The city, the chamber and the schools are working together to resolve our city's workforce development challenges.

In addition to the partnerships that are forming to address workforce development, the Business Visitation Program has directly led to significant capital investment and job retention successes.

For example, during one of our visits, a local business representative stated the company was experiencing a significant growth in its number of customers and needed to find a more long-term real estate solution for its operations.

The city's economic development team worked with property owners and local developers to identify any and all available space within the community. The result was that the business decided to spend more than $1 million to construct a 10,000-square-foot facility within Central Park of Gahanna.

This project not only helps the business handle its growth in their customers, it also solidifies its location in Gahanna for the next 10 years.

Whether it's helping to develop a workforce development strategy or facilitating the construction of a new commercial facility, the Gahanna Business Visitation Program is paying dividends to our community.

We are increasing our efforts to meet more businesses over the next several months and are excited to see what ways we may be help Gahanna businesses grow and expand in our community.

Anthony Jones is the planning and development director for the city of Gahanna.