The idea that Erie County needs a "one-stop shop" economic development agency caught some local leaders off guard Friday.
John Moldovan, president of the Erie County Chamber of Commerce, and Sandusky City Commissioner Dave Waddington said they read in Friday's newspaper about the proposal to form Grow Erie County. It was the first they'd heard of it.
Both men have been involved in economic development efforts and didn't know there was a movement afoot to consolidate such efforts under one roof.
The chamber recently served as the host for a meeting of local leaders at Great Wolf Lodge to discuss the area's economic future. Waddington has also organized public meetings to discuss ways to save area jobs.
"The article took me by surprise," Moldovan said. "I was not aware of the initiative. It kind of came out of nowhere."
Waddington was equally surprised.
"I'm just wondering when the dust settles, who are the players who are going to be involved in this?" he said, describing his vision of creating new jobs by developing alternative energy sources in Erie County, including solar panels and wind power.
City Commissioner Dennis Murray and Sandusky Register publisher Doug Phares, two of the eight local leaders who proposed forming Grow Erie County, said Friday the point of announcing the proposal was to initiate public discussion about an idea that could make a difference.
Phares said the idea has been discussed privately after hours or over coffee in the morning with a variety of people.
"That was the purpose, to bring it to a public forum," Phares said.
Murray said he sent a copy of the proposal to Moldovan and told him he welcomes the chamber's input.
The Grow Erie County initiative suggests combining the economic development staffs of the city of Sandusky, Erie County and Greater Erie Marketing into one entity that would offer "one-stop shopping" to any business thinking of locating in the region.
The combined office would meet regularly with local political leaders to discuss ideas and build county-wide development plans. The group also suggests exploring other ways to organize economic development, including organizing an economic development corporation or a port authority.
The eight local leaders who proposed Grow Erie County are Murray, Phares and six others: John Hildebrandt, vice president and general manager of Cedar Point; County Commissioner Nancy McKeen; Citizens Bank President James O. Miller; County Commissioner Bill Monaghan, a member of the GEM board; Don Moncher, CFO of Firelands Regional Medical Center and also a GEM board member, and Craig Stahl, operator of Lake Shore Graphics and a city commissioner.