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Published: Thursday, 3/13/2003

Chamber exec starts major project


SWANTON - Ten weeks after becoming executive director of the Swanton Area Chamber of Commerce, Neil Toeppe will oversee his first major event: a community recognition night and “coming out party” for three new officials that is expected to draw about 100 people to Valleywood Golf Club tomorrow.

It's the first public step in a much bigger goal to encourage business growth in the Swanton school district, thus reducing the school tax burden on homeowners.

“When I compare the Swanton community to Delta, to Wauseon, to Maumee . ” he said, his voice trailing off before naming much larger employers in those communities than are in the Swanton area.

He also wants to give business a bigger voice in decisions by Swanton village council, Swanton school board, and the area township trustees and is forming committees of chamber members to address economic development and issues involving roads, sidewalks, and sewers.

Mr. Toeppe, a retired telecommunications consultant, will be advantageous to the chamber, said Shawn Ferguson, Fulton County economic development director.

“Swanton is certainly geographically positioned for growth,” he said, agreeing with Mr. Toeppe's assessment that the village's location near Toledo Express Airport, the Ohio Turnpike, and rail spurs are among its key assets.

Like Mr. Toeppe, however, he said new jobs in the area are needed to help it recover from the loss of Pilliod Furniture, which closed in 2000.

“The reality that they need that balance is there,” Mr. Ferguson said.

Mr. Toeppe, 57, who has lived in Swanton Township for 18 years, started the part-time chamber position in January. He represents 130 members. He recently closed his one-man telecommunications consulting firm, Peak Performance Consulting, Inc., which he had operated for four years in retirement.

He is one of the three new officials to be introduced to the community at tomorrow's Jiggs dinner that he has planned as “a coming out party” for the people he hopes will take a lead in bringing more business to the area.

The others are Swanton village administrator Jon Gochenour and Swanton Area Economic Development Board president Bill Pilliod, who owns Walter's Flowers & Gifts. All are new in their positions this winter.

The spirit of volunteerism will be applauded as well with the recognition of six groups: Swanton Boosters, Swanton Parents Organization Rebuilding Team Spirit which uses the acronym SPORTS, Swanton Parks and Recreation Board, Swanton Corn Festival Committee, Swanton Rotary, and the Christmas in Swanton Committee.

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