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Published: Wednesday, 1/30/2008

Business leaders serve details on local economy during annual breakfast

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Business and civic leaders from Northwood, Oregon, and other communities dished details about the local economy over eggs, bacon, and hash browns during the annual Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce State of the Communities Breakfast.

Gary Thompson, executive director of the Oregon Economic Development Foundation, outlined what he felt were the communities' strengths in the struggling state and national economy.

Oregon Mayor Marge Brown and Northwood City Administrator Pat Bacon also talked about the state of their respective communities with the estimated 50 members of the business community who attended the event last week.

In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Thompson said the local and national residential housing markets are "in the toilet," which is contributing in part to a lack of population growth in the area.

"Residential developments have slowed down," he said. "We have a steady [population] instead of a growing population."

Mr. Thompson said a growing population is a key ingredient to developing the local economy.

"One of the things the citizens of Oregon desire is more retail store and restaurant opportunities," he said. "One of the things that attracts that is a growing population. If we're not having that, then it makes it more difficult to attract retailers and restaurants."

Aside from acknowledging the sobering economic status quo, the theme of the meeting for Mr. Thompson and other business leaders was focusing on their communities' economic strengths, which include the health care and energy industries and tourism, according to Mr. Thompson, who said the community is ripe for economic development.

"Maumee Bay State Park has become a

haven for corporate retreats and conferences," he said. "Looking into the future, we have the [Cedar Point] industrial park ready to go. We talk to site collection consultants who say the number one thing they need going forward is a site that's readily available. It gives a tremendous advantage in the region."

Small-business owner Pat Slygh, who runs Mr. Emblem, an embroidery retail and wholesale store in Northwood, said her business went through its economic ups and downs last year, but it is looking better heading into February.

After attending the breakfast meeting, she said she was most pleased with the leaders' focus on the positives, including the summer 2008 grand opening of a new Menards off Navarre Avenue in Oregon and BP's $2.5 billion investment to increase production at its Oregon refinery.

"There's the new shopping center that will start developing this year in Oregon," she said. "You have the additions of BP's plant and then you have Menards opening up. If you look at those and we can focus on the positive in our area, we have a lot to offer."

Mayor Brown was glad to see business leaders getting together to discuss community goals.

"I feel very good that our community has businesses both here and in Northwood that support the community," she said. "That's what's important."



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