Fulton County organizes economic development initiativeWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
By Michelle Li, Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
Organizers of the newly formed Fulton County Economic Development Corporation (FCEDC) say although the organization is still in its early stages, it took a step forward at a recent meeting.
Representatives of the public-private partnership’s nearly 50-member organization met July 1 and officially established and divided into seven committees. Among these are membership, new business development and community outreach.
Comprised of a diverse representation of Fulton County, the FCEDC committees will help local companies identify areas for improvement as well as provide online information for outside companies interested in doing business in Fulton County.
Toni Schindler, director for marketing and communications with the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, said she was pleased with the results of the meeting. Along with solidifying the organizational structure of the FCEDC, the meeting updated the members on expectations, Schindler said.
“With the membership that we have in place already, it’s going to foster growth opportunities, [and] there’s going to be a lot of sharing that will occur,” she said. “We want to be able to have a sustaining organization, so we’re really looking for multi-year commitments from businesses who are looking to invest in this organization for Fulton County.”
Once the committees were established, the members broke into their designated teams, appointed chairs and co-chairs and scheduled sub-committee meetings, Schindler said.
Rich Menzel of North Star BlueScope Steel, president of the FCEDC executive board, said he emphasizes shared leadership throughout the FCEDC to promote networking and cooperation.
“We prefer [members] to be involved and we’re gonna make it possible,” Menzel said. “We are not going to be an organization that just takes money and tells people to stay on the sidelines. Our next step is to get people to understand that we want your opinion, we want your views, we want your problem-solving, we want you taking initiative.”
Meeting attendees also discussed the ongoing search for an executive director, whose responsibilities will include enforcing executive board policies and cultivating a network of private business leaders as well as facilitating communication between the private business coalition and public Fulton County constituencies.
Bruce Rumpf of Job1USA, an FCEDC executive board member, said the Job1USA Executive Recruiting Division is carrying out the search process.
According to Menzel, the selection team will conduct interviews of candidates through mid-July, with the decision-making process wrapping up soon after.
Rumpf said he believes the future executive director will benefit from Menzel’s ambitions of widespread leadership.
“The [executive director] is going to be quite pleased because rather than being a one-man band, what they’re going to do — and I’ve talked to a number of the candidates — is really a community involvement,” Rumpf said. “Ultimately, for any kind of success, you gotta have people buy into the process and participate in the process.”
The FCEDC concept was introduced at the annual Fulton County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) meeting in April, Schindler said. She said the FCEDC has raised more than $128,000 and formed a tight bond between the Fulton County Commissioners office and local businesses.
Menzel said the fusion of the private and public sectors adds a vital field of experience to the work started by the CIC.
“The public officials are excited, because first of all, it is a private-public partnership and I think that they see a lot of skill and ability coming onto the team that’s gonna help them be really successful in what they’re trying to accomplish,” he said.
Schindler said private-public cooperation is an advantage that previous economic development initiatives, which were under the auspices of the Fulton County Commissioners, didn’t have.
“The economic development in the past has been a public department — and with that comes challenges,” she said. “There’s all kinds of red tape when you’re working with the government, and with this private organization, you have so much more diversity in what you’re able to offer.”
Rumpf said he believes every individual can help local companies accomplish the goals they set for themselves and when that happens, Fulton County will attract more skilled workers.
“To me, [the FCEDC] represents that kind of idea that if we lift people who are already a part of the fabric of the community, and we can do something positive to help them add jobs — good jobs — they will grow. They will make more money, and it will be a fantastic place to live on top of it,” he said. “And if there isn’t an interest in growing, if they’re happy with where [their business is] at, then it’s what opportunities are in the community that somebody from the outside can come in and supply.”
In addition to working with existing companies, Menzel said he would like to reach out to community colleges and local high schools to engage students in the economic growth initiative.
His goal, he said, is to influence students’ post-graduation career options to include staying in or returning to Fulton County. The Workforce Development/Education committee will be responsible for initiatives targeting students.
“Certainly, everybody gets the message, ‘Go to college,’ and that’s great,” Menzel said. “But we also want to make sure that people are aware of all the opportunities in Fulton County. There’s all sorts of businesses here that are leaders within their industry.”
The most promising part of the FCEDC, Rumpf said, is the receptiveness of the community to participate in its efforts.
“The fact that we’ve had success so far beyond what we thought we were going to indicates that people feel that there’s a need for this kind of thing in their community,” he said. “And rather than wait for something positive to happen through circumstances, they’re being proactive about it.”
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Toni Schindler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Bruce Rumpf, Community Improvement Corporation, FCEDC, Fulton County, Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Fulton County Economic Development Corporation, Job1USA, North Star BlueScope Steel, Rich Menzel, Toni Schindler