0623Greg Winkler, Taditel-1.jpg

Greg Winkler (second from left), marketing consultant for the city of Anderson , meets Zvi Nakar (left), corporate engineering manager for Taditel Ltd. of Israel, in Taditel's U.S. offices here in Anderson with Taditel U.S. President Jim Wehrly (second from right) and Justin Lybbert (right), Taditel's product engineering manager.

THB Photo
The Herald Bulletin

Greg Winkler says it’s “the beginning of the beginning” for development in Anderson.

But with Winkler’s help for the past two years, some are wondering why economic development isn’t further along.

On July 1, the city will complete its second year contracting Winkler for marketing consulting services. Mayor Kevin Smith calls him a “salesman for the city.”

Smith plans to renew Winkler’s contract, which is worth up to $208,000 a year with salary and expenses. Since 2004, the city has paid Winkler $291,281 out of food and beverage revenues. Those revenues, which come from a 1 percent tax on food and beverages in the county, brought the city $493,000 in 2005.

“I will spend the money it takes to turn this community’s economic development environment around,” Smith said. “This is a very appropriate use of economic development dollars.”

But while both Smith and Winkler hint at big announcements to come in July and August, the hard numbers of new jobs since Winkler was hired have yet to appear, and many are asking whether he’s the man for the job.

“I think he’s worked hard, he’s tried ... I think he’s a good guy,” said Democrat City Councilman Rick Muir. “But we should be getting more for our money as far as I’m concerned.”

There have been triumphs. Altair Nanotechnologies, which makes lithium ion batteries, has pledged to create 100 jobs by 2007.

“From a personal standpoint, Greg did quite a bit,” Altair Director of Operations Dave Lynch said. To date, Altair has 11 employees, two of them hired locally.

In early July, Winkler said the city will announce a new aerospace collaboration — one that he said has already created 20 jobs.

“These are skilled, high-paying jobs,” he said.

And in the next two months, Winkler said, there should be three or four new announcements.

“Once we have these (companies),” he said, “we’ll have opportunities to attract other companies.”

Winkler said he’s played an integral role in raising the city’s profile. He pointed to the 907 daily visitors in May, up from 849 in April, to the city of Anderson Web site.

In June, about 915 visitors a day come to the Web site, and they looked at almost five pages per visit, city webmaster Ryan Moore said. Of those, between 15 to 20 percent were from outside the country.

Winkler said those hits prove that more people are looking at Anderson.

To get those companies from looking to investing, Winkler turns on the charm.

His expense reports reflect that role. In five months, the city has paid $20,261 in expenses for Winkler. They include $167 per month for city access to the Skyline Club, $213 per month for a laptop computer lease (since he doesn’t have procurement privileges) and, in the last five months, around 30 dinners with officials, fellow economic developers, and potential leads, ranging in price from $16 to nearly $300.

Trips are also big-ticket items. A March trip to Israel cost taxpayers $2,654 in airfare, lodging and other expenses. Donations from area businesses paid to send Winkler and Smith to Japan in 2005 with Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Winkler said his work is reaping benefits for the city. A high-ranking Japanese automotive executive, whose name Winkler asked be withheld for fear of souring the deal, visited Anderson Feb. 20.

Meanwhile, Jim Wehrly, president of Israeli-owned Taditel US, said Winkler’s contacts helped grow the firm’s Anderson location, though that effort has yet to create new manufacturing jobs in Anderson.

“He’s the guy who’s rooting around, trying to find opportunities,” Wehrly said. “Over in Israel, he was the guy who did all the scheduling and talking to people.”

Meanwhile, other central Indiana cities are having better luck attracting new businesses.

Over the last two years, five companies have located in Richmond and its surrounding Wayne County, according to Bill Martus, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County — including two Japanese automotive parts suppliers, Yukiya USA and Howa USA. Richmond officials went on the same Japanese trip in 2005.

Why didn’t Anderson get those jobs?

“(Richmond officials) probably had contact with them before we went,” Winkler said.

Richmond’s economic development office is looking for a new CEO — at the same pay Winkler receives, said Martus.

Winkler, in fact, was hired instead of a new economic development director.

Smith said Winkler’s experience in the private sector makes him better at the job.

“I was getting applications from bureaucrats,” Smith said. Winkler was a salesman with an engineering firm and Smith offered him the contract.

Winkler’s contacts in the private sector give the city’s economic development team a place to start, Smith said.

Winkler’s pay comes from the city’s economic development fund. The city’s Board of Public Works allocates those funds. The City Council has no say over how they’re spent.

“We really don’t have control,” City Council President Rodney Chamberlain, D-at large, said. “If we did, it would probably be a little bit different. A lot of salesmen are paid by commissions.”

But Smith said Winkler has been worth the money nearly $300,000.

“I think the people of Anderson have gotten more bang from their buck out of Greg than from the Crystal Arch,” he said. The $400,000 city hall monument, built during former mayor Mark Lawler’s time, also was funded by the food and beverage tax.

Winkler said the last two years have been spent tearing out the foundations of a General Motors town — literally and figuratively — and starting again.

When he talks about Anderson’s “core markets,” or industries he hopes to bring to Anderson, it’s hard not to be caught up in the former pastor’s high-energy enthusiasm. Supporters and critics alike praised his upbeat attitude.

Those markets include industries that utilize the expertise of engineers and skilled tradesmen whose skills learned in the auto world could translate to the growing biomedical equipment field.

Data recovery, he said, is also a good market for Anderson because of the city’s independent fiber optic network that would stay running even if Indianapolis’ went down.

Piggybacking on Altair and the packaged-energy company iPower, Winkler said alternative energy could also be in Anderson’s future.

He ranked negotiations with GM over the empty factories in town, which have yet to conclude, among his biggest achievements.

The city got some “significant” concessions from GM, Winkler said.

Bill Nagengast, director of operations at Continental Design and Engineering, said that big things are on the way.

“Where we’ve missed out is not having a coordinated effort,” he said. “I’ve seen firsthand exactly what he’s done, and I think that within 90 days a lot of people will become Greg Winkler fans.”

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