The Blade/Andy Morrison
As a city, Toledo has improved tremendously in the last few years, though many Toledoans may not see it. And the future, Mayor Mike Bell told 200 business leaders on Thursday, can be as bright as they want to make it.
“We can turn this into anything we want it to be,” the mayor said while giving an update of the city’s progress during a two-hour discussion and networking meeting of his “Future of Toledo” initiative that he formed in 2010 with the goal of moving the city forward.
The initiative, which recently was developed into a strategic plan to make Toledo a vibrant city by ensuring citizen safety, balancing the city budget, creating jobs, improving schools, stabilizing neighborhoods, encouraging health and wellness, and connecting and promoting the region, seeks to accomplish many of those goals through government and community-driven programs and ideas.
The initiative’s leadership group has been working for the last two years and convened regularly over the summer and fall to chart the progress it has made toward those goals.
But in an hour-long speech to the 200 attendees, Mayor Bell said it has become clear that everyone in Toledo needs to be moving in the right direction because in the past, the city has been plagued with missteps. “The only reason was everybody had gone their separate ways. That has to change. We have to get moving together,” he said.
The mayor said he has been pleased that there is a positive spirit engulfing the city — and that it is mainly coming from Toledo’s younger people.
“It is amazing the energy that young people have,” Mr. Bell told the crowd at the Valentine Theatre. “They are so positive about what Toledo can be.”
Young people, he said, are resettling the downtown area, starting businesses or creating opportunities, and generally finding innovative ways to solve old problems.
Mr. Bell said Toledo needs to get more aggressive with promoting its brand and telling outsiders what the city offers because a lack of awareness about the city continues to be one of its biggest problems.
“Most people don’t know what Toledo’s about. But when they get here, they get excited,” Mr. Bell said.
The mayor told stories about how visitors attending two events in Toledo this summer — a Glass Art Society conference and a Navy Week celebration — expressed amazement at how vibrant and exciting Toledo was.
He also peripherally discussed his recent economic development trip to China and how that and other ties to the Asian economic powerhouse will benefit Toledo.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from Toledo. We’re trying to improve it. Because Toledo was always meant to be an international city,” the mayor said. He said Chinese investors and businessmen understand Toledo’s value, and during the recent trip those investors were lined up to meet with the Toledo delegation.
There was so much interest in Toledo that city officials, and 20 area business leaders who accompanied the mayor on the trip, ran out of business cards, Mr. Bell said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.