Leaving his mark

On a night that celebrated the organization’s success, President and CEO Rich Focht announced his retirement after 23 years of working with Seneca Industrial and Economical Development Corp.

Focht, who started in 1990, said at the SIEDC Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony March 21 that he will be ending his tenure with the organization Dec. 31.

“There’s always a lot of challenges out there, a lot of things I want to do,” he said. “My goal is always to try and make things better; (SIEDC has) done that. I think we’ve made things considerably better, and I see other opportunities out there to do some things that can have a positive impact on the community.”

He said there are several projects SIEDC has lined up before his retirement in nine months. He said the organization is working on getting funding for a loop road, which would use existing roads to create a loop that would connect US 224 and SR 53.

“I’m amazed at the growth we’re seeing right now in the manufacturing sector,” Focht said. “We’ve got a half-dozen companies right now that are expanding and adding people. I’ve had discussions with several companies in the last couple of weeks that are looking at some significant projects, if they come through it’s going to mean even more growth and employment. On top of what’s already been announced.”

He said SIEDC has been successful because local government and businesses have been cooperative and worked well with the organization.

“I think the thing that I’m most proud of is that I like to think I helped influence the community’s attitude about investing in itself,” Focht said.

He said in the late 70s he and his father tried to develop some land for an industrial park, and said the city and county were very difficult to work with at the time.

“I promised myself then, if I ever had the opportunity to do something about that, I would,” Focht said.

Before joining SIEDC Focht worked as city administrator when Dave Martien was mayor of Tiffin.

“I loved working with Dave, he did a really good job,” he said. “Dave really did a lot to turn the community around, and get the community thinking in the right regards to economic development.”

Before Focht’s arrival, he said SIEDC had not had a lot of success, and was on the verge of disbanding if he was unable to make something happen.

He said the Northstar Industrial Park was one of the first opportunities to begin to market the community. Focht also mentioned the rehabilitation of the former Shawhan Hotel, city expanding its sewers and cleaning up the Glasshouse property as other achievements of SIEDC to improve the city.

“I think we’ve done good,” he said. “We’ve had some success bringing in some businesses. Those businesses, for the most part, have grown and succeeded.”

He said there are two employees at SIEDC, himself and Karen Bowers, who has worked with the organization for six months longer than Focht.

“I feel very fortunate that I had Karen here,” he said. “There’s absolutely no way I could’ve done this job without her.”

Focht said he and Bowers had a sense of pride when they worked at SIEDC because they are both originally from the area.

“I think the reason it worked for us, is we both grew up in Tiffin and it meant a lot to us to see the community succeed,” he said. “We felt a responsibility because we had grown up here It’s an advantage and it’s a disadvantage. You take things to heart because you care, but because you care you want things to happen too.”