As the chief executive officer of a major Midwestern financial institution, I am often asked why Huntington Bank continues to invest here.
The answer is easy. Northwest Ohio offers tremendous opportunity. The region already possesses many of the special assets that communities across the country are developing to attract businesses, young professionals, and families.
When I look at northwest Ohio, I see a vibrant, thriving area that is capitalizing on its already great assets, including:
Visionary leadership: I am impressed by the spirit of collaboration among the area's community, business, public sector, and academic leaders. They all are rallying around the common goal of bettering the lives of the people in this region. As an example, local business leaders had the foresight to privately fund regional economic development to attract businesses here. Toledo Mayor Mike Bell has added his energetic and enthusiastic voice to the chorus by traveling abroad to urge international investment in northwest Ohio.
Strong public-private partnerships: ProMedica Health System and the University of Toledo set a benchmark for collaboration when they entered into a relationship that will result in better health care throughout the region. Other examples of collaboration include a joint venture by the Regional Growth Partnership and the University of Toledo Innovation Enterprises that is designed to expand the reach and impact of entrepreneurial and technology services. And recently, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and Columbia Gas of Ohio entered a partnership to offer energy-savings and in some cases rebates to homeowners.
A skilled workforce: Three local automotive manufacturing plants recently have been recognized as the most productive in North America. That speaks volumes about the nature of the regional workforce. We know that local educational institutions graduate students every year who want to remain here. In addition, community colleges, including Owens, Northwest State and Terra, have partnered with local and national firms to provide the most current training. These graduates, with their competitive skills, are a major selling point when trying to attract new businesses to the area.
Great educational institutions: Northwest Ohio is blessed with an abundance of higher education institutions, including seven four-year universities. The University of Toledo's photovoltaic innovation and commercialization center is recognized as one of the top solar research institutions in the world. Nearly all of the regional universities collaborate with the business community to further economic development. One example is a group of professors at Bowling Green State University who, in conjunction with students, have implemented a language services program that offers interpretation, training, and expertise to companies that are looking to build international business opportunities.
Nationally recognized cultural institutions: Whether it is the Toledo Symphony making its debut recently at Carnegie Hall or a new exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo region offers world-class arts and entertainment. Similarly, Toledo's zoo and public library are both ranked among the top 10 nationally.
With all of these assets in one area, Huntington continues to see northwest Ohio as an exciting region in which we are investing. That's why we proudly lent our name last year to the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo. It is also why we have significantly increased lending to small and middle-market businesses, the drivers of economic growth and job creation.
We know that Toledo, the State of Ohio, and much of the Midwest continue to battle through the recent economic downturn. Nevertheless, northwest Ohio proves each day that when people have passion about an area and join together to make a difference, they can achieve goals for economic growth and development that will benefit everyone.
When I visit Toledo and all of northwest Ohio, I return home with a renewed sense of the power of the human spirit. I am glad to be a part of the grass-roots coalition of business and public interest working to make the Midwest and northwest Ohio a diverse and growing economy where our children and grandchildren will be able to work, live and thrive.
Steve Steinour is chief executive officer of Huntington Bank.