Development Company Sets Sights on Small Towns

A development company has launched in Indianapolis with the goal of aiding small town America in restoring its vibrancy. Pago USA seeks to help communities with populations between 8,000 and 20,000 leverage their unique history to improve pride and enhance opportunities through redevelopment. Co-founder and President Eric Doden says the company sees itself as a national company, however it will begin with a focus on communities in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Doden said Pago USA’s approach is different that most developers that pick a project and then pitch it to the community.

“The first thing that we like to do with the community is ask them to define what is transformational,” said Doden. “We’re getting some big bold answers and it’s very exciting because I think it will have cowork space. It will have commercial space. It will have retail. It will have residential and it will truly restore vibrancy to those communities.”

Pago USA says many small communities have less than 25 percent of their historic assets revitalized to class A standards with the remainder often being in decline or in serious disrepair. The company is seeking to help partner communities restore all historic assets within three years by helping them implement their plans before they become stale.

Doden says they’re looking for core leadership that wants to transform their communities.

“That really starts (with) investors, people who grew up there, maybe they’ve been successful in business. They’re now often in their 60s or 70s. They’re looking for something that’s transformational and they’re willing to bring leadership from the private sector because we really can’t do this without significant private investment. We’re looking for people with very strong foundations. We’re looking for communities with a very strong business community and ultimately a desire to transform their community.”

Pago USA has already begun working communities to begin their transformation and has established an application process for communities to submit for consideration.

Doden is the former Chief Executive Officer of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. He co-founded Pago USA along with Eric Shields, a principal at Cardinal Strategies LLC in Indianapolis and former vice president at the Indiana Economic Development Corp., as well as Steve Smith and Bobby Maly from Cincinnati-based The Model Group.

“Our goal really is to inspire people and to give them an opportunity to live a life that they feel inspired by that they can live in a small community rather than always feeling like they have to leave their small community to go to a larger city to experience amenities or to experience culture or experience life. What we believe is that when people see their town become redeveloped and they have community pride, that often leads to startups. It leads to new businesses forming. It leads to people trying different things and really beginning to believe in themselves in a different way.”