Steven Weathers, who has development experience in San Diego and Tucson, heads the newly private growth partnership.
One idea is to establish a database so every northwest Ohio business can search for a local company to supply bottles, auto parts, or whatever else is needed, keeping dollars and jobs in the area.
Another is to rate Toledo against other similar cities nationwide every two years on a variety of points, including quality of life and economic development, so leaders can determine where help is needed.
Both notions are among those being floated by the new head of Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership, Steven Weathers, as he meets with public officials, business people, and other community leaders throughout northwest Ohio.
With 15 years of economic development experience in San Diego and Tucson, Mr. Weathers took over as the newly private partnership's president and chief executive nearly two months ago.
He spoke with The Blade yesterday about his goals and outlook for one of the region's most prominent economic development agencies.
He is the partnership's first permanent leader since it became a privately funded organization this year.
Although it no longer receives money from the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority or other public entities, collaborating with them and others in the community is key to solid economic development, Mr. Weathers said.
"We should be a major partner with them whether they're giving us money or not," said the 47-year-old, who last was chief executive of the Tucson Association of Realtors after leaving the former Greater Tucson Economic Council in March.
The absence of public money at the partnership is what attracted Mr. Weathers to the Toledo job, he said, because the local agency is under no pressure to dole out resources to municipalities in proportion to their contributions.
The executive said his agency will back up other economic development efforts in the region and take a lead role in attracting or retaining employers, depending on the situation.
The city, for example, is working on finding more tenants for One SeaGate as Owens-Illinois Inc. prepares to leave downtown Toledo for Perrysburg next year, but the partnership can help, he said.
"We have an asset that's ready to go," he said, despite a recent notice by the skyscraper's landlord that it may default on the mortgage next year and send the building into foreclosure.
Being rooted in the auto industry also provides opportunities for northwest Ohio as it tries to diversify, Mr. Weathers said. Engineering skills such as the use of robotics in a car parts factory, for example, can translate to other industries, he said.
The database he proposes, similar to one used in San Diego and elsewhere, could help retain northwest Ohio operations by generating business that otherwise would be done outside the area, he said. Cooperation among businesses and information collectors would be the most critical part of building such a database, he said.
"It's not too tough to do," he said. "It takes a while."
The rating system, meanwhile, could help boost northwest Ohio's profile both locally and nationally, Mr. Weathers said.
"One thing I've noticed here is a lot of complaints from Toledoans about Toledo," he said.
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