Mayor: Toledo at ‘ pivotal point,’ but ‘closed minds’ often hold it backWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
DELMENHORST, GERMANY — Mayor Mike Bell said Toledo is at “a pivotal point,” but expressed frustration with the general unwillingness of residents to “think outside the box.”
The comment came in Delmenhorst, Germany, on April 10, a day after a visit to Zug, Switzerland, where Bell met with mayor Dolfi Müller.
The two mayors – who Bell said are the same age and have similar political histories – discussed their cities, including city planning and ways to attract and retain residents, especially young people.
“We’re always trying to find the best for the people that live in our cities,” Bell said. “Whenever I’m traveling I’m trying to figure out how we can do some of the same things. We deal with so much close-mindedness inside our city on issues that are outside the box or progressive and a lot of it doesn’t have to cost a whole lot.
“Zug is one of the highest quality of life cities in the world,” Bell said. “If you’re going to benchmark yourself against something, benchmark yourself against something that’s one of the best.
“They had a lot of great qualities I thought we could do in Toledo if we had an open mind, but you’ve got to really have an open mind.
“You shut off a street, you redirect traffic, you create the energy, the synergy. … You start to create the environment that has people coming and hanging out in a certain area, which then draws people back to your Downtown area.
“We could close some streets off in our Downtown area to make market places, cafe areas, things like that,” Bell said. “We have the ability to do that because we have some older buildings, but you have to think outside the box.
“People back home, they squawk a little bit on doing things creatively but it works in these types of environments because it becomes a gathering point for people to come sit down and have coffee and socialize. It’s integrating a lot of different dimensions, which help create that quality of life.”
Bell is visiting Germany to attend the Hannover Messe, one of the largest industrial trade shows in the world. He will also spend time in Toledo’s sister city Delmenhorst.
Bell said the visit to Zug reminded him and inspired him of many of the goals of the Future of Toledo initiative, a project Bell has been involved with for several years.
He said he wants to keep pushing for creative solutions and trying “to turn the direction of Toledo.”
“We’re at a pivotal point in being able to become something great,” Bell said. “We have the chemistry to make it happen because so many younger people are stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for Toledo. With that type of energy, you don’t want to lose those people because that’s your core. If you’ve got your young people believing in you, that’s half the battle.”
On April 12, Bell and other Toledo representatives plan to tour the Metropolitan Solutions showcase at the Hannover Messe. The exhibition is one of the largest international platforms presenting “cross-industry technological solutions for urban infrastructures” and where exhibitors “showcase intelligent solution ideas for the urban challenges of the present and the future,” according to fair’s website.
While at the fair, the mayor will also be meeting with at least six companies to showcase Toledo as a possible location for U.S. business expansion. A vibrant city is something many companies look for, Bell said.
“Most of these companies work off a lot of the energy of their younger people so they have to create the amenities that make young people want to live in your city,” Bell said. “You really gotta focus on how do you take these young technical people who have a whole lot of energy and new ideas and concepts and get them to where they want to be in our metropolitan area, so they don’t want to go somewhere else. That’s part of what we’re fighting inside our cities.”
Also traveling to Germany are Deputy Mayor of External Affairs and Economic Development Paul Syring, City Finance Director Patrick McLean, Public Information Officer Jen Sorgenfrei, Regional Growth Partnership Vice President International Development D. Paul Zito, University of Toledo Associate Director Undergraduate Admission Mark Schroeder, Toledo Sister Cities International Executive Director Susan Miko and private individual Christine Luttmann.
For more information, visit futureoftoledo.com or www.hannovermesse.de.