'One-stop shop' sought for Erie County jobs|Grow Erie County would be economic development clearinghouse

SANDUSKY Eight Erie County leaders are calling for the formation of an "one-stop shop" for
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Eight Erie County leaders are calling for the formation of an "one-stop shop" for economic development.

"Sandusky is in such a crossroads now, we need to do something," said Craig Stahl, city commissioner and businessman.

The group of leaders, which includes Stahl, listed three proposals in a press release issued Thursday.

The press release called upon Sandusky, Erie County and Greater Erie Marketing to combine existing economic development programs into a new team, "Grow Erie County." Other political and economic development groups are invited to also take part.

Secondly, Grow Erie County should host regular meetings with all local government groups to share ideas and plans.

Local officials have already met, but meetings need to continue even after local political figures leave the scene, said Dennis Murray Jr., a Sandusky attorney and city commissioner listed among the eight.

Thirdly, the group asked Grow Erie County to explore ways in which it can become an effective organization. That could include forming an economic development corporation or setting up a port authority.

Leaders endorsing the proposal also included: John Hildebrandt, vice president and general manager of Cedar Point; County Commissioner Nancy McKeen; James O. Miller, the president of Citizens Bank; County Commissioner Bill Monaghan, a GEM board member; Dan Moncher, CFO of Firelands Regional Medical Center and a GEM board member; and Doug Phares, publisher of the Sandusky Register and also a GEM board member.

Phares said the newspaper would support the proposal editorially.

"I truly believe we are at a crossroads in this area," Phares said. "Normally, we would seek to keep ourselves out of the headlines. This is an instance, in my mind, where we need to push, as well as lead."

Several members of the group cited the recent audit of Erie County's economic development prospects, commissioned by GEM and written by AngelouEconomics, an economic development company in Austin, Texas.

The report's findings indicated Erie County's economic development efforts should be united.

"We need a team to go out and sell, sell, sell ... and work as one unit," Stahl said.

"We want to make it as easy and seamless as possible for businesses that want to locate here," McKeen said.

McKeen and Monaghan emphasized the effort can't advance far until they've had a chance to discuss it with key Erie County staffers and officials, including Commissioner Tom Ferrell, County Administrator Mike Bixler and Planning Commission Director Alex MacNicol.

"We have to include everybody on the team," Monaghan said. "This is kind of in its infancy."

"I've always had concerns we appeared to have a fragmented development effort, with the city doing their thing, the county doing their thing and GEM doing their thing," Miller said.

"You can only support a community on so many service jobs," Miller said. "We need more than $8 an hour jobs. We may not get the factories back ... but I think we can still attract new types of business."

"I've been living here for more than three decades," Hildebrandt said. "I'm invested in the community. It's business and it's personal. I want our community to be successful."

Moncher said an unified effort is needed for economic development and the current approach "isn't consistent with communities around the country that have had success."

Moncher said he's speaking on behalf of Firelands, but not on behalf of GEM of which he is a board member.

"The GEM board has not discussed this issue yet," he said.

Mark Litten, executive director of GEM, has not yet seen the proposal.