Regional cooperation is bold step in right directionWritten by Carty Finkbeiner | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In these challenging times, we must believe in ourselves. Opportunities for growth will invariably present themselves, and as a city, and a community, we must be ready when they do.
The City of Toledo is pleased to be participating in the development of the Meta-Plan, now known as the Toledo-Regional Economic Plan. This ambitious project could enable our region to collectively identify the resources needed and the investments that must be made, and then we can work together to create the optimum economic development delivery system.
The decision to align the regional plan with the state of Ohio provides consistency and timeliness that would otherwise be difficult to achieve. A key ingredient to fostering successful economic development is to grow, attract and maintain a highly educated and productive work force.
Educated cities prosper, and it is a sobering fact that only 17 percent of Toledoans have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
It is exceptionally important that every individual in our community understands the increasing importance of achieving a higher education, and that our educational system is able to effectively train our work force with marketable skills. If Toledo is to break through to the next level of prosperity, we must dedicate ourselves to collectively improving our educational level.
The bold new scholarship program offered by UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, which guarantees all local students with a 3.0 GPA can attend the university tuition-free, is a step forward in improving our educational standing.
One of our challenges is to build a more globally competitive economy. We must make it as easy as possible to conduct business in Toledo and to be as prepared as possible to positively address the requirements of business.
While Toledo has been named “Most Business Friendly City in North America” by Foreign Direct Investment magazine (a supplement of The London Financial Times), we must increase our support of growing advanced technology businesses by encouraging the entrepreneurial mindset and funding the research that fuels their growth. We also must diversify our economy by building upon our longtime strengths and assets as we pursue new alternatives. Our knowledge and history with glass played a significant role in our recent successes in solar energy.
The Meta-Plan has identified major clusters that show growth potential and are related to our existing assets, which will enable our marketing plan to be more focused, and we believe, more successful.
Branding our region as the place for clean, green, alternative energy, advanced manufacturing and innovation is another worthy goal of the Meta-Plan.
Branding our community in this manner has already been achieved to some degree. The Toledo area has become internationally known and respected as a leader in solar energy research and development. In the past few months, there have been stories by The New York Times, Newsweek, CNN and ABC News about our emerging status as one of the world’s solar energy capitals. We must duplicate our solar energy marketing successes in the major clusters we are pursuing.
On the individual level, there are positive statements that each of us can make about our city and our region, but for some reason, consistently negative statements are being made instead.
Until each of us takes the responsibility of looking for and talking about the positive aspects of our community, we will be known as an underachieving community. If we cannot convince ourselves that our community has many assets, how will we convince others? Our efforts will either be enhanced, or held back, by the attitude and statements of individual citizens.
The final point of the Meta-Plan is to create an economic development delivery system that is second to none. All of those involved in economic development must focus on the customer.
While some have expressed concern that the economic development groups in the region do not work very well together, my experience indicates that we have each developed certain specialties that allow us to coordinate development services quite well.
However, like every other aspect of economic development, we must search to see if there is a better way to deliver services.
In these challenging economic times, where the numbers of projects, investments and budgets have become seriously reduced, the areas that do the best job of continuously improving every aspect of their community and regional economic development efforts will be the communities that are most able to transform themselves successfully.
The Meta-Plan, the Toledo-Regional Economic Plan, is a bold step toward furthering this region’s transformation.
Carty Finkbeiner is mayor of the City of Toledo.