Marking downtown successes

PHOTO BY JIMMY FLINT Jessica Wirth, owner of Bailiwicks Coffee Company, speaks Thursday night during the third annual Tiffin Downtown Summit.

The third Tiffin Downtown Summit, held at Heidelberg University Thursday evening, gave attendees a glimpse of the future of a community branding initiative and a chance to celebrate the past year’s downtown successes.

Community leaders, business owners and other Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. stakeholders gathered at Wickham Great Hall for the event.

Carly Cheton of Upward Brand Interactions in Columbus, the company that is to help Tiffin, Seneca County, SIEDC and Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services create a community brand, gave a presentation on what the company will do.

“We’re trying to put our finger on the pulse of Tiffin and Seneca to figure out what makes this community incredible,” she said. 

Cheton said a brand is not only a collection of logos with similar fonts and colors, but also is about what people think of the community. 

“A brand represents everything your audience perceives your community to be,” she said.

Cheton said the beginning of the process is trying to figure out what the brand is, before redirecting the conversation and giving it more focus.

She said one goal will be to elevate and expand the appeal of Tiffin and Seneca County as a destination and as a home. 

Cheton said the company is in the first stage, which is called the discovery phase. She said she and colleagues will be attending events and collecting survey information through June.

During the downtown summit, she asked for input from attendees by asking them how they would describe the best part of the community to a friend in one word. She also asked what one word represents the appeal of the community to a business owner.

Cheton said the brand could be launched as early as December or January.

Also at the event, Downtown Main Street Manager Amy Reinhart highlighted some successes of the past year.

Reinhart said signage was completed and the Rock Creek Trail was finished.

She said 11 businesses opened in downtown, matching the total for 2015. She also said as of Thursday, four businesses had opened in 2017 with three more to open soon.

Reinhart also lauded the success of Tiffin’s Facade Enhancement Program. She said since the program’s inception in 2014, it has spurred 54 projects and $1.4 million of investment in downtown. Reinhart also said more than $1 million outside of the facade program was invested in downtown during 2016. 

Reinhart said last year, 42 projects were completed, 33 jobs were created and about $2.85 million was invested, not including the Seneca County Justice Center.

After awards were presented, entertainment was provided by local musician Gary Dickerson. 

Reinhart said part of the summit was a celebration because Tiffin was named a Main Street Community Dec. 10, 2015, and the community was awarded national accreditation earlier this year.

She said Tiffin benefits by being in the program administered by Heritage Ohio, including inexpensive or free attendance to several conferences, exclusive access to grant funding and continuing education.

Reinhart said being nationally accredited is significant.

“It means we are functioning at a level with top downtowns nationwide,” she said. “It’s important to note, all of this came about because of all of you.”

Jessica Wirth, owner of Bailiwicks Coffee Co. and chairwoman of the Downtown Development Committee, said although she is not from Tiffin, she is proud to have her business here.

“I want to recognize the individuals working tirelessly for downtown,” she said.

SIEDC President and CEO David Zak also thanked everyone who works for the improvement of downtown and the community.

“It’s really great to be a part of this town,” he said. “I view this as a tribe, it’s a group of people who believe in something passionately who have each other’s back and who are working to make this an unbelievable place to be.”

Main Street Tiffin award winners were:

• Tiffin Community Reinvestment Group.

• Larry Breidenbach, local business owner.

• Rick Reser, Renee Perry and Andrew and Cindy Kalnow, owners of The Empire at 13.

• Susan Wilkinson, owner of Simply Susan’s.