Rich Focht says Seneca County’s economic development will be one of his chief concerns if voters elect him to the the county’s Board of Commissioners in next week’s primary election.
“I think it’s incumbent upon the people that we elect to do the things that are necessary to further growth and create economic opportunities for us down the line,” he said. “Now, a county commissioner doesn’t create jobs. They don’t go out and hire people, but what they can do is create an environment around which growth can take place.”
Focht said his experience as a business owner, city administrator, city council member and president and CEO of the Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. makes him well-suited to help build the county’s economy.
“I feel very proud that I was a part of helping to create an environment around which we could go out and bring in new jobs,” he said. “We could help companies to grow. And we did that through development of industrial parks, we created incentives for businesses. I’ve traveled to Europe, to Canada, to Asia, to Mexico and throughout the United States selling Tiffin and Fostoria and Seneca County. And I think the results bear out the success that we have.”
He said part of his motivation to seek a seat on the board comes from earlier frustrations with previous commissioners.
“The thought process for me started 40-plus years ago,” he said. “I was in the construction business with my dad and we were looking to develop some land for a business park on the south end of town, and it was out in the county, and we had to go through the county for approval on the land. We made several trips down to the commissioners’ office. It was evident that they didn’t care about the development, even though we were willing to invest our money in this piece of land, bring in new businesses. What I saw early on was that there was a mindset that was one of status quo, everything’s okay the way it is, and as we all know we went through some difficult times back in the ’70s and ’80s, and part of that, I think, was because our leadership hadn’t made the kinds of decisions that they should have been making to support the changes that we needed in order to further economic growth.”
Those decisions, he said, were vital for the county’s survival.
“I don’t care whether you’re an individual, a company, a community, a government entity — if you don’t have a strong economic base, it’s really tough to get things done,” he said. “It’s tough to live.”
He said if elected, he would put the county’s well-being before his own political aspirations.
“I think you need to have people in these offices that are willing to make the hard decisions,” he said. “They don’t put their finger up in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing. You have a plan, you articulate that plan, and then you make decisions based upon what that plan says needs to be done. Sometimes that means that there are going to be people who don’t agree with you, but you still have to do what you think is in the best interest of moving things ahead.”
That said, Focht added that it was important to consider other points-of-view.
“We don’t always agree on everything, but you sit down and respect others’ opinions about things,” he said. “I’ve seen people change their minds. I’ve changed my mind on some things. You listen to them, you respect their point of view.”
Focht said he thought, in the past, county commissioners had not always performed their jobs adequately.
“They ignored the buildings, they ignored the future, they ignored the economic development that we were trying to do,” he said.
This unwillingness to look at the big picture cost Seneca County its historic courthouse, he added.
“The courthouse is indicative of the lack of commitment and support from the commissioners’ office,” he said. “Now, I’m not blaming the guys who were in office when the thing got torn down. It goes back way further than that. You look at how the people in those offices function, and that’s what I’m talking about.”
He said he was confident the community is on the right track regarding the construction of the city and county’s Joint Justice Center.
“We’ve got good chemistry on the leadership team, between the county and the city,” he said. “We’ve gone through a couple of difficult decisions and got things worked out. This is the first time this has been done in Ohio, so we’re breaking some new ground. I think we should be proud of that. It’s moving ahead.”
Ultimately, Focht said that running for county commissioner is an opportunity for him to continue to serve the community.
“It’s a chance for me to use what I’ve learned,” he said. “I love the community. We’ve got a lot of great people here. We’ve got a lot of great assets. I think it’s a chance to see things to continue to develop.”