City Council, SIEDC aim for collaboration on local development

Tiffin City Council and the executive committee of Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. discussed their concerns at a special council meeting Thursday.

Council President Paul Elchert said his concern was getting information on grants for city development and wanted to know whether there was a better process.

Councilman Mark Hayes said he wanted more grants initiated by SIEDC, and Huntington said council and SIEDC needed more dialogue in order to acquire grant funding.

“I’m not saying it’s SIEDC’s fault,” Hayes said. “It could be part of our fault, too, not giving some direction.”

Commissioner Fred Zoeller spoke as a member of the executive committee and said he, Mayor Aaron Montz and Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler are to start meeting quarterly with Seneca Regional Planning Commission and grant writers from SIEDC and Fostoria.

“Sometimes, grants are a little competitive. … if we share information, there’s more that we can get out of it than what we would get individually,” Zoeller said.

Councilman Joe Hartzel also brought up the availability of funds for the downtown area and additional businesses that could come here. He also brought up restrictions and whether it was keeping businesses away.

Hartzel added there was no uniformity downtown and it “ought to be attractive.”

Law Director Brent Howard said council has created the design review regulations, exterior maintenance code and Architectural Board of Review in order to create rules for changes to buildings downtown.

Hartzel also asked about SIEDC’s plan for downtown and wanted to know the “overall picture” of development.

Councilman Rich Cline said SIEDC does have a plan.

“Tiffin Tomorrow and the city have joined, and we paid for … a plan to revitalize downtown,” he said, adding he wanted to see SIEDC implementing parts of the plan quickly and efficiently.

Councilwoman Lori Ritzler also said there was positive development in the county and that should not be ignored.

“We don’t want to take away from everything that has been developed,” she said. “You have to have that in order for the rest of this … to come.”

Robert Huntington, Heidelberg University president and chairman of the executive board, said the board was functioning as a search committee to hire a new CEO to replace Rich Focht upon his retirement at the end of the year.

He said it was important for both entities to meet now so they could become more organized for Focht’s successor and that three finalists for the position are coming to Tiffin in October.

He also said SIEDC needed a new CEO before they could move on to the concerns of council. After hiring a new CEO, he said SIEDC would have more ability to look at the plan for development in Tiffin.

“We haven’t paid enough attention to that plan,” Huntington said. “This is a perfect time to pay more attention to it.”

He said downtown needed more retail in order to balance the strength of industry in Tiffin, and SIEDC needed to look further into grant funds in order to bring more businesses to the downtown area.

“I wouldn’t tolerate a SIEDC approach that said we’ll just get a few grants and keep them to ourselves,” Huntington said. “That’s the perception that hasn’t come to the public enough.”