A child of the 70s, Jeremy Stratton had an affinity for fashioning miniature cities from Legos, Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets.
Like any good architect, he understood the foundation’s role in underpinning the towering superstructures of his faux cities. It’s an understanding he’s extrapolated to economic development, which he described as a bottom-up proposition.
“You have to develop the foundation and have the basic knowledge,” said the newly minted CEO/president of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce. “Then you build on it.”
Stratton has spent the first 48 hours of his tenure acquiring some of that said knowledge by meeting with civic clubs and pressing the flesh at Tuesday’s meet and greet at the chamber. He’s still getting oriented to his new surroundings and gauging how best to leverage the chamber’s capabilities, saying he’ll proceed cautiously until he gets up to speed. Having grown up in Montana and graduated from Central College in Pella, Iowa, Stratton is new to the Deep South.
“I’m trying to get a picture of what our assets are, what we need to do,” said Stratton, who served as the director of the Danville, Va., office of economic development prior to arriving in El Dorado. “It’s one thing to look on the internet and proclaim what you need to do, but it’s another thing to see it up close. It’s going to take me a while to meet everyone and get familiar with the streets and roads and learn the history of El Dorado.
“… We don’t want to haphazardly do things that could hurt El Dorado in the future. We want everything to build on each other, so it strengthens El Dorado.”
The terrain isn’t wholly unfamiliar to him. Like El Dorado, Danville is isolated from the interstate highway system. But Stratton doesn’t see it as a detriment, as he plans to put a map on the city and chamber’s website showing El Dorado’s centrality in relation to major economic hubs such as Houston, Memphis and New Orleans. He hopes it will encourage foreign companies to invest their capital here.
His extensive list of international contacts distinguished him from other applicants. He said some of those contacts have expressed interest in scouting the area.
“They’ll see we’re a lower cost alternative to (Memphis, Houston and New Orleans),” he said. “I think that will help us with international companies.”
Citing the El Dorado Promise and the revitalized downtown, he said El Dorado has the elements to attract industry.
“One thing El Dorado has is a fascinating downtown area, with restaurants, coffee shops, night life,” he said. “You wouldn’t expect that if you just looked on the internet. It’s things like that that really make a difference.”
The small town charms were part of what he and his fiancé, Erica, found appealing. Stratton said it was an easy sell for him to convince Erica to move. The area spoke to the small town sensibility she developed growing up in Martinsville, Va.
“I think people are very friendly here and down to earth, very genuine” he said. “There’s a good sense of community. Erica and I were looking for that.”