Regionalism guru Michael Gallis gave a geography, history, and economics lesson for his Toledo debut yesterday, but left it to his listeners to decide whether Toledo should become a "center" city.
Mr. Gallis, a development and real estate consultant from Charlotte, N.C., spoke to about 300 people at the Wyndham Hotel during a forum coordinated by Downtown Toledo, Inc.
His business, Michael Gallis & Associates, helps regions determine their economic strengths and form "frameworks" for economic growth. He said that means leaders from the public, private, and institutional sectors coming together to make decisions that benefit the entire region.
He said towns and cities should work together rather than try to stay isolated. He said each urban or suburban partner has a role to play in the regional market - tourism, manufacturing, transportation, housing, research and development, shopping, or entertainment.
Using a basketball analogy, Mr. Gallis said not every city can "play center."
"Every town wants to be the center. We have centers, forwards, and guards," Mr. Gallis said.
"You have to have a great center, great suburbs, and great outer-ring cities," he said.
He said the Detroit region suffers from the lack of a strong central core. Chicago, on the other hand, is identified by its downtown.
Mr. Gallis is the second major development consultant to promote growth ideas in the Toledo area.
In November, author Richard Florida addressed a crowd at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle on the importance of "the creative class" to an economically vibrant city. That event was billed as the kickoff of an arts and culture plan.
Peter Gozza, president of Downtown Toledo, Inc., said it is possible that DTI and other local organizations would contract with Mr. Gallis.
"What we thought we would do is have everybody meet him and start that conversation. We haven't talked about costs," Mr. Gozza said.
He took Mr. Gallis on a tour of Toledo yesterday. A dinner meeting with Mayor Jack Ford was planned at the Toledo Club.
Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said he liked the speech.
"We support looking at this as a region," he said.
Donna Brown, president of Oakwood Associates management consulting firm, said she detects a desire for change on Toledo's part.
"We've had meetings, a lot of talk, but no direction. We really lack the strategy," she said.
Mr. Gallis discussed world trading patterns beginning with the famed silk trade with China. He said the end of the Soviet Union demolished the trade barriers that previously split the world.
"By 1990, the divided world collapsed and we got a global economy," Mr. Gallis said.
Commenting on Toledo, Mr. Gallis cited the city's location on the I-80/I-90 and I-75 corridors as a natural asset.
"The 80-90 corridor is the trunk line of trade," he said.
Among his previous clients is the West Michigan Strategic Alliance centering on Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland. He said the framework took two years to establish and was funded by the public sector, private business, and nonprofit institutions.