A great menu doesn’t mean the food will taste good: City of Dayton goes to Denver for an expensive website

When I first came to Dayton there were a lot more people living in the city. Downtown didn’t have two new class A skyscrapers, a new performing arts center, Riverscape, but it still had people working there. The Arcade was open and we didn’t have the Downtown Dayton Partnership or the Dayton Development Coalition or give-away tax dollars to every single business that promised to employ people.

We did invest in having 6+ recreation centers, a police force close to 500 sworn officers and the streets were smooth, clean and not full of potholes.

Now, downtown is a ghost town, we have about half the police force, just a few recreation centers and the streets are like an obstacle course. Oh yeah, and our population has dropped by something close to 40%

So, tomorrow night, the Dayton City Commission is going to spend $45,000 on a website with Atlas Advertising of Denver, Colorado, on a GIS-enabled website for the Department of Economic Development.
Here is how Atlas describes its product:

Does your community know how to leverage its unique strengths to drive inquiry and investment from prospects? Economic development marketing is where Atlas started and it’s what we do every day. Our CEO is a former economic developer. Our Creative Director has designed the best economic development website in the country—four times. And we all work hard to create feature-rich, integrated software products and dynamic creative services for our economic development clients every day. Smart, Feature Rich Economic Development Websites; Atlas offers the most feature rich, easy to use economic development websites on the market. These include Atlas Smart City Economic Development Website, developed specifically for cities and counties under 100,000 in population, and Atlas Smart Region Economic Development Website, developed specifically for regions and utility service areas made up of multiple cities and counties and totaling over 100,000 in population.

via Economic Development Marketing Services & Products.

There are also monthly fees of:

  • Annual maintenance, demographic data, software and hosting: $495
  • Company data (D&B) $125

So instead of working on recreating the unique strengths we once had- parks, recreation, safe neighborhoods- we’re going to send large sums of money to a web development firm in Colorado (not that there are any in the entire state of Ohio that can do this) but, we’re going to spend our hard-earned tax dollars on yet more “economic development” Hail Mary solutions instead of investing in making sure the streets are smooth, safe and clean.

I don’t care what you tell people about what you offer- if they do their due diligence on this community (greater Dayton) and get one whiff of the kind of three-ring circus we call “government” – with umpteen hoops to jump through, the prospective employers will head elsewhere.

We’ve “invested” about $150 million in moving the deck chairs of local companies to Austin Landing over the last 3 years- just imagine how many more police, parks and street sweepers that could have bought. Never mind the savings by consolidating our I don’t want to even know how many jurisdictions into one competent one.

And- as per usual, the 126-page agenda was posted as a scanned PDF- unreadable by people with disabilities and not in compliance with the ADA. So, I’ve done a little OCR work and uploaded it here for you to review. The internal links unfortunately break with the OCR process.

Dayton City Commission 04-18-12 Agenda

I also find this item interesting:

DHDC, Inc.- Contract- for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP3) Nuisance Abatement Program Residential Asbestos Surveys and Post Abatement Verification Inspections- 2012 (Open Market Contract) (Federal NSP3 Funds)- Dept. of Building Services/Housing Inspection. $77,357.00

DHDC is Design Homes- owned by Sherry Oakes, who was recently investigated by the Dayton Daily News and the Feds for issues about minority and set aside ratings. The city says “This Project was bid with a 0% participation goal; however, DHDC, Inc. is a minority and woman owned company.” If this is a 0% participation goal- why are these relevant? They also checked “No” with an * on disclosure of litigation and have a handwritten explanation of their issues with RAPCA.

Note- Design Homes website doesn’t talk at all about doing asbestos abatement. However, TesTech- one of their other companies does: http://www.testechinc.com/enviro.html

If you don’t find this odd, you must work for the city.



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David LauriJohn WilliamsDaveHallDon Wallace Recent comment authors
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David Sparks

And this from a city that sees nothing wrong with carrying over 14,450 outstanding unpaid parking tickets on its books FOR YEARS in spite of its dramatically shrinking population, declining tax revenue, reduced federal and state money, and serious budget deficits. My out-of-state friends can’t stop laughing at the laughing stock we call Dayton.


Seems like a waste for a variety of reasons, in addition to the cost. Why doesn’t the city just link to the Dayton Development Coalition website for the same service already being provided by Atlas: http://www.daytonregion.com/find-a-location. It’s bad enough Dayton is wasting money. What’s worse is that they’re either not aware of the local resources they should be utilizing or they don’t want to partner.

Trailer Park Boy
Trailer Park Boy

Am I wrong to think that the City of Dayton is a prime target for The Trailer Park Boys next office furniture adventure?


David Sparks

I just noticed that the Commission approved the web site contract. Tim Downs gave a sales pitch for why it should be built, but nobody had any ability to question the nuts and bolts of why the costs were so much.

I’ve built many, many web sites. The City is not even close to spending its tax dollars wisely here, mostly due to ignorance and a steadfast refusal to listen to voices outside of their bubble.

Commission should have demanded it be done locally, and much cheaper. 

Denver Patented, Denver Originals. 


I have no idea how much it costs to “build” a website of the scale that the city may want (or need) but according to the DDN article today, http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/dayton-chooses-colorado-firm-to-create-new-website-1362876.html, there were (16) total bids with Atlas being the lowest. Does that mean that $45k is “too much” ? The market or market rates indicates otherwise.

David Sparks

Actually, if you watch Tim Downs speak before City Commission, he said that they received bids from $4,600 to $250,000.


David Sparks

“Questions unanswered in that article: Research has shown that a strong economic development website has a strong return on investment,” said Timothy Downs

What research? What were the research methods?

Along with an independently hosted site, the city will get access to a content management system that allows the staff daily control over the site

Which content management system? The best one is free, and open-source. 

“analytical tools to track who is visiting the site”

This can be done in under five minutes, with a simple insertion of google analytics tracking code into the <head></head> code of a web page.

“and a mobile site”.

Free plug-ins are available to convert a site into a mobile-friendly form. Many site themes and templates used in a content management system have a mobile version built into them, and can be purchased for under $100.

Steve V.
Steve V.

This is peanuts compared to Tech Town. Dayton spent 1.4M to form the ‘RFID Convergence Center’ which was a business incubator located in Tech Town. Then they awarded all their RFID work to someone outside of the city. Now the RFID center has failed and Tech Town sits mostly empty.

Don Wallace

To answer Drexel Dave’s comments, the $45K to develop this site is actually right in line with major e-commerce site development costs. The four digit figures are too low and probably indicate one or two person shops struggling to land a big fish project. The 6 digit bids – you can do better.
The Denver company obviously has deep niche experience in this area. Still, that does not excuse awarding a significant technology project to an out of the area provider, while such providers struggle right down the street.
That Denver outfit most likely landed a similar project in the past to gain its own niche experience in this area. The Dayton City Commission could, more morally correctly, have sponsored a local business in much the same way,  so that a local provider could also build up its expertise and thereby become more competitive, and then hire local talent.
That is not even to mention that the Cincinnati region has some world class advertising talent. (Not in the Dayton area but at least in the tri-state.)
But no. I can only join the chorus that this move is arrogant and highhanded. Your tax dollars at work.
PS: D. Esrati, your captcha on this site eats comments. When I attempted to post I got a captcha mismatch error, and when I went back the text vanished – bad! Good thing I had copied the text before posting because I have had this problem on other fora.

Don Wallace

Yes. There is a body of theory around pricing of projects. Too low and it smacks of low quality and you lose credibility. Easy money was just laying on the table. But that’s not the key problem with this – it’s waste and outsourcing of something that should have been kept local.
It sounds like this city organization has an incredibly narrow agenda and scope of interest (local employment and supporting local businesses being of no concern, apparently). No wonder they made this sort of decision.
Of course, lack of employment drives lower commercial real estate values.


Saw an update to the story that indicated the $250,000 bidder was one of the local firms… The DDN plans to give more information in the upcoming days. 


Yep, the whole thing is a pile of crap. Unbelievable.

John Williams
John Williams

To Steve V,

Can you expand on your comments regarding the failure of tech town, failure of the dayton RFID Convergence Center, and who was the outsie RFID company tech town hired?

I haven’t heard any of this.

David Lauri

Today’s Dayton Daily News has a fun article, “Huber Heights suing consultant for more than $50,000,” about how another local jurisdiction benefited by going out-of-state to find expertise it apparently could not find locally:

The city is accusing Holbrook, who is based in Las Vegas, of breach of contract, conversion, unjust enrichment, fraudulent inducement and negligent misrepresentation. It wants its $53,800 back, as well as punitive damages and attorney fees, according to the lawsuit issued April 24.