Council may increase SIEDC funds

Legislation to increase funding to the newly merged Tiffin Tomorrow and Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. was moved to Tiffin City Council after discussion at the Law and Community Planning Committee meeting Wednesday.

Mayor Aaron Montz proposed a total increase of $15,000 to the organization’s funding. Part of the increase is the reinstatment of $5,000 that was cut from the budget three years ago, bringing it back to the former funding level of $70,000.

He said the additional $10,000 was to help facilitate the merger of SIEDC and Tiffin Tomorrow, specifically for the hiring of the downtown director.

The increase would be included in the next three years’ budgets.

Law Director Brent Howard said, at this time, the city approves two separate contracts in three-year terms. One contract is for the marketing of the industrial park sites, while the other contract is for general economic development, including grant writing.

Tiffin Tomorrow President Mitch Felton said Tiffin Tomorrow was created as part of the downtown strategic plan that was implemented through the city and SIEDC.

Felton said the group is getting fewer volunteers putting in time developing the downtown area.

“As far as Tiffin Tomorrow, we think that it’s great idea to merge with SIEDC at this time,” Felton said. “We’re excited about it because, after three years, the volunteers are showing up less and less.”

Felton said Tiffin Tomorrow’s corporate sponsors now are funding SIEDC.

“No one is planning on cutting back what SIEDC has done,” he said.

Felton also said Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services, SIEDC and Tiffin Tomorrow needed to work together to promote the Tiffin community.

“Now, you can see the positives of all of the organizations working together to carry in the same direction,” he said.

SIEDC Executive Committee Chairman Rob Huntington outlined the meeting with City Council in September and how SIEDC was moving toward improving the organization according to council’s requests.

“These are the six things: … better communications, stronger retail focus, more shared grant funding, improved collaboration, more value for the three-year funding, and be sure to hire a strong president and CEO,” he said.

He said with the hiring of SIEDC President and CEO David Zak, the organization can focus more on grant funding and hiring a new manager to focus on retail in the downtown area.

Huntington said Zak also is familiar with the plan of creating growth in Tiffin, and intends on using that plan to improve the city.

“With David Zak, I think you’re going to find somebody who is energetically ready to get engaged in this community,” he said.

Through the collaboration, Huntington said funding from the city would only increase value.

The downtown manager is to answer to the CEO of SIEDC, and Tiffin Tomorrow would work as an advisory board to SIEDC.

Montz said the city’s cost for hiring a downtown development director is a bargain considering the benefit to the city.

Councilman Mark Hayes suggested either making a special contract regarding the $10,000 for the director or creating specific language in the existing contract, along with addressing the duties and responsibilities of the position.

The committee requested Howard prepare legislation to restore the funding to SIEDC and add an additional $10,000 for the part-time position of downtown manager.