Toledo economic development guru seeks ‘open dialogue’Written by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo’s economic guru couldn’t imagine a better lifestyle than the one he has in the city.
He’s been all over the world, joining the U.S. Air Force during the first Gulf War and serving in Turkey and Korea.
“We talk about keeping people here,” said 34-year-old Todd Davies. “I disagree with that. I think we need to bring back the people who left. Once you have left, you see how it is in other places.”
The 1991 Lake High School graduate returned in 1998 to earn his Ph.D. from the now University of Toledo Medical Center, and then commuted to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for post-doctoral work.
“As a graduate student, I bought a house, which you just don’t do,” said Davies, lauding Toledo’s cost of living. “You can’t have that kind of lifestyle at that price anywhere else.
“People are afraid to be proud of Toledo,” he said. “We have an art museum; we have a zoo that is one of the best. You can come to Toledo and have a good lifestyle and raise a family without making a lot of money.”
In December 2006, Davies was hired by the City of Toledo as a development specialist and was promoted two months later to commissioner of economic development. It all started with him e-mailing Mayor Carty Finkbeiner about his thoughts on developing technology and the economy.
“We always had a knowledge-based economy. Our problem in Toledo is that we stopped making new stuff; we didn’t innovate,” Davies said.
“Todd’s education, drive, and personality make him a quiet, but accomplished advocate for economic development in Toledo,” Finkbeiner said. “He understands the type of high-tech industries we are trying to attract to Toledo. That helps him and the City of Toledo compete for high-tech companies that will secure jobs in Toledo for generations to come.”
As commissioner, he leads a team of economic development specialists, all looking toward the same future: developing the technology industry.
“Good things are happening and I will say in three to five years people are not going to recognize Toledo,” Davies said. “It will be thriving in a way that they never thought it would.”
Davies isn’t worried about Toledo’s workforce — he said they will be able to convert and make the windmills and solar panels of the future.
“The auto industry has left us a legacy of machinists and people who are good at creating things,” Davies said.
If Davies could change Toledo, he would change the attitudes.
“I would like to see more people take pride in Toledo,” he said.
Davies and his wife, Elizabeth, are happy here raising their two young boys, 6-year-old Sebastian and 3-year-old Alexander. She’s originally from Garden City, Mich. They met at the Air Force base in Dover, Del., and returned to Toledo together.
“Liz served as a crew chief on the C-5 Galaxy — big plane, bigger job — talk about a woman succeeding in a man’s world,” Davies said.
“I like it a lot,” Elizabeth said of her husband’s hometown. “The zoo, all the public places you can go. Toledo is really family-oriented.”
Davies seconded his wife.
“We have the nicest people. You just don’t get that in other places. You go to the big cities and you are just in their way.”
Davies said it is hard to be in the public’s eye and under constant scrutiny:
“I hate it. It’s the worst part of the job, but not necessarily the scrutiny,” Davies said. “I like to have an open, honest dialogue, and that’s very hard to do with the public scrutiny there. Not everyone is willing to be open and honest with cameras in the room.”
Davies said he likes to keep the public informed. He’s gotten used to being in the public eye.
“I think not everyone listens to the whole story,” Davies said. “Things are usually more complicated than we give them credit for. Most of what I do cannot be put into sound bites.”