After several years of discussing the possibility, Verona hired its first dedicated economic development employee over the summer.
Dayna Sarver came to Verona with three years of experience focusing on the downtown development district as part of Janesville’s economic development department and 15 years’ experience living in Verona. The 38-year-old mother of four told the Press her main focus for now is getting to know existing businesses, explaining that retention is one of the most important parts of good economic development.
She’s working as part of a four-person team, with the city administrator and planning department, to ensure existing businesses get good support from the city and to show prospective businesses they would, as well.
“Community economic development, in its simplest way, is about developing relationships,” she told the Press in August. “Your state (agencies), the chamber, the local school district, the library, the senior center, the food pantry all kind of come together.”
Sarver’s role is also marketing city services such as revolving loan funds and facade-improvement grants and informing businesses and community lenders about state and county programs that might available. In addition to meeting with businesses over the past three months, she has been working on creating marketing materials and building the city’s new economic development web page, which now features information on services available for businesses, a community profile, a map of available properties and the most recent marketing survey, done in 2015.
An economic development position was discussed for the 2014 budget, then it was put in an early version of the 2015 budget but removed in favor of bringing in a consultant. That consultant was used sparingly after some initial research and a few meetings with the Community Development Authority despite getting $25,000 allocated for it in 2016.
A full-time position was put into the 2017 budget, but the city waited until the June 2018 to fill it.
Prior to Janesville, Sarver worked at UW-Extension while earning her master’s degree in urban, community and rural planning.