By CHRIS SINGERLING
During most of 2021, the Ottawa County Improvement Corp. Board of Trustees, which consists of community leaders from both the private and public sector, conducted an extensive review of the organizations existing strategic plan. Reveille, a provider of custom planning, design and economic development services from Bowling Green, helped shepherd the process and gather the feedback received through several group meetings, surveys and personal interviews with key stakeholders from across the county. The intent being to find out exactly what the OCIC needs to be more involved with and ways to enhance current OCIC activities and programs.
The OCIC’s Strategic Plan was framed on a “comprehensive community development approach” and the input that was provided from stakeholders served as a key component to the process and direction the OCIC will take to maximize its resources and community and economic development opportunities. This fall, Reveille compiled all this information and created the OCIC’s 2022-24 Strategic Plan. The document is a roadmap that the OCIC will use to enhance and grow both economic and workforce development efforts across the county for both the short and long term.
The 2022-24 Strategic Plan for the OCIC is more than just a document to guide the internal underpinnings of the organization. The Plan represents a paradigm shift in the organization, as it looks outward for partnerships and tools that make it more resourceful and responsive to the true impediments to growth and revitalization within. The first three pillars of this Strategic Plan discuss methods to promote business retention and expansion (Pillar One), attract new business (Pillar Two), and/or assist in workforce development (Pillar Three), and improve communications and marketing to the OCIC’s diverse market segments (Pillar Four). Additionally, a “Comprehensive Community Development” Pillar speaks to the refinement of elements that nurture community “livability.” Common to these four Pillars is the attraction of residents and a quality workforce, and building upon the “Ottawa County: It’s All Here” theme. This starts with our existing population of young people and those already familiar with our area.
The Plan is framed under the principle that Ottawa County will be best served by a holistic approach to economic development, one that nurtures opportunities that focus on providing high quality basic services, such as K-12 education, healthcare, utilities, infrastructure, and neighborhood, recreational and environmental improvements. For starters, this approach will help to put the county’s best foot forward in capturing opportunities provided by the thousands of new jobs being activated in the region from both existing employers and new ones.
If this comprehensive approach is aggressively pursued, one negative trend – population decline – might be altered as the enhanced approach attracts new residents that long for a slower pace of life, friendly people who know their neighbors, attractive open spaces and beautiful scenery, quaint shops, historic homes and buildings, parades, festivals, and streets that are safe and free of traffic congestion.
This Plan encourages the heightened cooperation and collaboration of related agencies beginning with the Ottawa County Community Improvement Corp. and its various stakeholders in the public and private sector, the Ottawa County Regional Planning Commission, and local Chambers of Commerce. Other Ottawa County departments like the Health Department, Engineer, Sanitary Engineer, Park District and Job and Family Services, and the six primary local school districts, three career tech centers and Terra State Community College also play an important role in community building. As well as regional partners like Lake Erie Shores and Islands, Firelands Forward and the Regional Growth Partnership (JobsOhio). All of whom will be integrated into the holistic development approach that this Plan supports and requires.
Ottawa County’s true potential will only be unlocked when an atmosphere of communication and collaboration is achieved. To see the fruits of this potential will require strong leadership, citizen engagement, and community/regional collaboration. A different type of thinking – one tolerant of change – will be required to position the county as a leader in economic development, to create a positive impact on the development within the county, and to produce results that Ottawa County’s citizens will recognize and appreciate.
The OCIC Strategic Plan identifies recommendations which will be examined and evaluated on a regular basis to prioritize resource allocation and determine their effectiveness. They are by no means completely exhaustive: they were developed in conjunction with extensive stakeholder input, and considered past, current, and projected problems and opportunities. Planning success will not occur by embracing one recommendation, but by using multiple recommendations in unison. Successful implementation will require a dedication toward each of the Plan’s recommendations and strategies.
Our tight-knit county and communities are one of our biggest strengths. As northwest Ohio continues its resurgence, Ottawa County is well positioned to benefit from those relationships and our geography. Implementation of this Plan, sharing ideas, embracing new ones and your personal engagement in your community will be a key ingredient to our future success. Ottawa County is on the move, and we should all be excited for what lies ahead.
The Ottawa County Improvement Corp. serves as the lead economic development agency by advancing, encouraging and promoting the industrial, economic, commercial and civic development of Ottawa County. To learn more about the Plan and the OCIC, visit us at ocic.biz and connect with us on social media.