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New SIEDC chief emphasizes 4 R’s of development

February 22, 2014
By Brittany Cook - Staff Writer ( , The Advertiser-Tribune

With a foundation of 30 years of accomplishments, Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. is looking into the future with new President and CEO David Zak.

The organization celebrated its 30-year anniversary last August. It was led by newly appointed Tiffin City Councilman Rich Focht since 1990, until Zak took over at the start of the year.

Zak said SIEDC is a community leader that has to have a foundation in communication and relationships.

"We don't create jobs, we facilitate projects and we work to create an environment where people want to live and where they want to do their business," he said. "In doing so, we market the community."

Zak said there were four R's to economic development: relationships, research, resources and results.

Forming relationships and continuing communication with SIEDC's partners was key, Zak said.

"I have 18 communication products up and running," he said. "That includes everything from various aspects of social media to products that are internal."

Because SIEDC deals in marketing and providing information, Zak said it was important to produce good content for existing businesses and businesses looking to relocate to the area.

He also said the typical marketing plan of telling people what Tiffin has is not as effective as it used to be, as everyone uses the strategy.

Instead, Zak said people want to know why they should be interested in Seneca County.

"What people care about is what I call value-added content. They're looking for interesting things that are of value to them," he said.

By providing content that intrigues people, he hopes to bring more attention to the positives of the area. Zak said after posting on his blog and other forms of social media about Seneca County being in the top five percent of similar-sized areas for economic development in the nation, it took only two days for 1,000 people to read the article.

"It was surprising," he said. "People would have never guessed that Seneca County had that kind of activity."

Zak said with more of those "wow" moments comes more interest and attention from the public.

"It's all about getting somebody's attention and earning it," he said. "What we're trying to do with our communications is earn people's attention by having real stuff that's interesting and value-added."

At this time, Zak is using Facebook, Twitter, Word Press and Instagram, among other forms of communication, to get the word out about the county.

He said in the future, he would like to do YouTube videos to incorporate into his blog posts.

Zak said because he is new to the community, he has the opportunity to look on the area with "fresh eyes."

The area has a great business climate, a low cost of doing business, a good work force, a low cost of living, two universities and great leadership, Zak said.

"I'm really selling not just the stats, although those are important, I'm also selling the experience of what Tiffin is," he said.

By communicating what the community has to offer through "experiences," Zak said, more businesses and individuals may become interested in the area, along with giving residents a reason to get excited.

"People are looking for reasons to like where they are," he said.

After communication and building relationships, Zak said focus on researching the area was most important.

Understanding the product is key in marketing the community, Zak said. To do this, SIEDC is organizing several forms of measurement to better understand Seneca County.

He said SIEDC is using customer relationship management software to manage projects and information. The program allows SIEDC to look at different stages of a project, the timeline and even the effect of taxes in different time frames.

The information on each business, Zak said, can provide a sense of the impact a project could have from a tax perspective.

He said collecting information can help SIEDC grow jobs through attracting, retaining and starting businesses.

So far, the database contains about 2,000 businesses in the county. The software can show new businesses that SIEDC and the community has an active role in not only assisting the start of business but in their continuing success.

He said focusing on manufacturers was important, because they have the most room for growth and employ more people, but he also wanted to give more support to retail businesses.

"Retail does need to have demographic support, but it's also something you can influence," he said. "The experience of putting a retail operation in the community has an impact on whether or not other retailers or developers want to do development."

With research comes resources, Zak said, which allow businesses to maintain themselves successfully in the area. SIEDC can help provide information on the workforce, incentives, finding space in the county and communication.

A specific example of a resource is the upcoming Jobs Fair, Zak said. The fair is free for employers and good for area job seekers, which makes it beneficial to the entire county.

He said in the future, the county would need more spaces such as buildings to bring businesses in. Zak said SIEDC is to inventory available space in the county and, specifically, the downtown Tiffin area.

Another resource that businesses require is a workforce that has the right skills, Zak said.

Zak said results come from a combination of the three.

"If you do the first three well, you should be able to get good results," he said.

By communicating well, researching the area and investing in resources, the county will thrive, he said.

"Our success is really the success of the community," he said. "When the businesses win, the community wins, because the bottom line is people have better jobs, they have stable jobs, they like living in the community that they're at and I'd like to make an positive impact on the community and help make it even better than it is."

Looking to the future, Zak said he hopes to share more of the experiences of Seneca County.

"I think there were such tremendous stories, neat things about this community, that I'm excited about," he said.

He said the success of the area is also dependent on its residents.

"At the end of the day, the quality of the community is totally dependent on the quality of the people in the community; regardless of what buildings you have or what businesses you have, it all comes back to people," he said.

With his marketing plan and the basis already built by SIEDC and the area, Seneca County can only move forward.

"I'm excited about creating the experience, creating the messaging, creating the branding, taking this gem and polishing it so that it can shine," Zak said.



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