By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspaper
SOUTHGATE — Brian Batko has been named the city’s first business development coordinator.
Officials call the move part of a continued effort to enhance and redevelop the Eureka Road commercial corridor. Batko’s primary responsibilities will include promoting the DDA district, serving as a general advocate for its business community and helping to attract new business opportunities. He also will interact with local media and explore the implementation of new technological enhancements within the district.
Batko, 49, comes to the DDA with over 15 years of account management and sales experience, most recently with the Siemens office in Livonia that formerly was operated by Unigraphics, and before that, Engineering Animation Inc. During that time he has worked in enterprise software sales, calling on Tier 1 automotive suppliers. Carol Batko, his ex-wife, is a City Council member. They have three sons, ages 21,18 and 16.
Brian Batko started his career as a field engineer for the Livonia office of Anaheim, Calif.-based Calcomp before moving into sales. A graduate of the National Institute of Technology, he is working on a bachelor of science degree from Siena Heights University in electronics engineering technology with a minor in marketing. He calls his new position an opportunity to use ideas he’s had and leverage his experience with customers.
Initially, Batko’s focus will be on existing city businesses as he helps coordinate the formulation of the Southgate Business Advisory Council, which will comprise local business owners and residents. Officials say it will serve as a means of communicating with City Hall while providing an incubator for new ideas.
The advisory council is expected to hold its first meeting in mid-February, Batko said, adding that officials currently are surveying businesses to understand what they’re experiencing in their dealings with the city and what their perception is of how they’re being treated by officials.
It was essential to Mayor Joseph Kuspa, the current DDA chairman who will continue in that role, to hire someone with a strong understanding of the Southgate business community.
“My board is very concerned about the viability of our local business district,” he said. “Therefore, it was important to select a coordinator who has the ability to address the concerns of the DDA stakeholders.
“In addition, Mr. Batko has an extensive background in civic involvement and local community service. His appointment is a progression of his lifelong commitment to his hometown of Southgate.”
For the last four years, Batko has been part of the city’s special events committee, which has worked to plan events like Heritage days, the annual Easter egg hunt, Taste of Southgate and the Parade of Trees. Last year he was elected vice president of the Southgate Anderson High School Marching Band booster organization and leads the group’s fundraising efforts.
Batko is eager to begin his position as business coordinator.
“Southgate has a great business community,” he said. “But I am also keenly aware of the the challenges our local entrepreneurs are faced with due to the regional economy. I look forward to working with our business owners to enhance what is here and aggressively pursue other opportunities for the district.”
That includes researching grants that may be available, as well as contacting businesses that officials would like to have in the city and letting them know about open properties that can provide a value. Batko also would like to start a downtown Southgate Web site in order to provide an online presence for smaller businesses that otherwise might not be able to afford one.
Changes in officials outreach to businesses already are afoot, as City Council meetings now will feature a “Business Minute” in which local businesses are highlighted. Ray Hunter Flowers, 16153 Eureka, will be the first to participate at the Jan. 20 council meeting. Such moves, Batko believes, will help improve businesses’ perception of the city.
“Perception is a big thing,” he said. “If people perceive that business owners are happy with what the city does for them, that might be the difference between someone taking an open storefront in Southgate versus Trenton or Lincoln Park or wherever. Word of mouth makes a big difference.”
City Administrator Brandon Fournier will handle on similar initiatives for businesses outside the downtown area, and Batko promises the two will work “seamlessly.”
“What this job really offers is a chance to be more proactive than elected officials typically can be,” Batko said.
He invites any local business interested in hearing more to contact him at (313) 550-1330.