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Are we there yet?

JANUARY 7, 2010

Are we there yet?
Community members speak out about driving Toledo's progress forward

The following article appeared in the January 2010 edition of Toledo City Paper. ABLE Executive Director, Joe Tafelski, was interviewed for the story. Read below, or view the contents on the City Paper's Web site.
With Mayor Mike Bell’s new administration now in office, hopes are high that needed change is coming to Toledo. With the lingering tough economy and the threat of “brain drain”, it’s easy to question if we are moving forward. TCP spoke with community members who shared their insight on Toledo’s potential, changes to come in 2010, and what everyone can do to help our fair city.
 
The following article appeared in the January 2010 edition of Toledo City Paper. ABLE Executive Director, Joe Tafelski, was interviewed for the story. Read below, or view the contents on the City Paper's Web site.

Are we there yet?
Community members speak out about driving Toledo's progress forward

With Mayor Mike Bell’s new administration now in office, hopes are high that needed change is coming to Toledo. With the lingering tough economy and the threat of “brain drain”, it’s easy to question if we are moving forward. TCP spoke with community members who shared their insight on Toledo’s potential, changes to come in 2010, and what everyone can do to help our fair city.

  • Dr. Lloyd Jacobs President, University of Toledo

I want this city to be recognized as a university town. Increasing fiscal pressure and the funding of higher education is going to continue to be a difficult problem. But the most important thing is that education is increasingly being recognized as the most important pillar for a successful society. It’s the only way to reverse brain drain and downward population trends to create a work force that will lead to long, healthy lives.

Additionally, we are going to continue to be a center of the world for a knowledge-based manufacturing approach, which depends on nanotechnology, physics and chemistry. We’re going to turn the world around from Toledo, Ohio.

  • Don Rettig Director, Toledo Metroparks
As a lifelong resident, I can tell you that we have so much to be proud of here. There are so many jewels in this community, whether it’s the zoo, or the art museum, the Metroparks, the Mud Hen’s stadium, or The Valentine.

From the Metroparks perspective, we’re working on three projects that will put us on the map, nationally. The first one is the Oak Opening Preserve Metropark, which is a globally rare habitat that we continue to preserve and restore. Another is Fallen Timbers Battlefield, a national park that is not yet opened, but will generate tourism nationally, and is a very important battlefield site. We’re also excited about the Middlegrounds Metropark, which will be our first downtown metropark, adjacent to Owens Corning and under the High Level Bridge. We just think that with all the other development that’s going into revitalizing downtown, the park will be a great addition to those efforts.

  • Marc Folk Executive Director, Arts Commission of Greater Toledo

I think in the arts and new technology sectors, Toledo has potential to be a (Rising) Phoenix, if you will. Toledo has been suffering from economic issues far longer than other areas of our state, at least. I think that as we start to redefine ourselves and come out of it, Toledo can really serve as a model for other communities.

For the arts in general, things are going to get a lot stronger in the next year. We saw this last year with our Third Thursday Artwalks and Meet and Greets—a spike in attendance.

Broader than just the arts, into arts and culture, there is a group of directors that have been meeting bi-monthly, just to make sure we’re all looking at the landscape in the same way, determining how we can move forward together as a group, and I would say these types of relationships will continue to develop.
  • Clyde Scoles Director, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library

We have long been known as the Glass City and leaders in the automotive industry, but now our focus will shift to our hidden regional jewels in the areas of arts, education, sports, entertainment, economic development and energy alternatives like wind and solar. We need to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge and rely on and support our educated and talented workforce.

The Library will continue to face a very challenging year as state cuts have forced us to reduce hours, staff and materials to meet a drastic budgetary shortfall. However, we remain firmly committed to excellent FREE customer service without sacrificing core services of lifelong learning and community engagement.

  • Robert C. Helmer Ph.D., J.D. President, Lourdes College
In 2010, I believe we will see an increased emphasis on the role of higher education in the economic revitalization of Ohio and in our specific region.  It is clear that the new administration of Mayor Mike Bell values higher education and its role in advancing the important discussions of our region.
  • Michael Szuberla Manager, Toledo GROWs (Toledo Botanical Gardens’ urban gardening program)

Toledo can become a world leader in sustainable local food production and the ecological revitalization of neglected and blighted areas.  By growing and eating local, we can enhance our economic vitality while transforming our urban landscape and becoming good environmental stewards.

The simple act of participating in community gardens has been demonstrated to: reduce crime, increase property values, improve the environment while growing fresh produce and reconnecting communities.  During World War II “Victory Gardens” provided 40 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S.  The simple act of growing a garden can have exceptional consequences.

In 2010 I expect to see amazing growth in community gardens, urban agriculture and small livestock.  When the going gets tough, the tough get growing.

  • Paulette Cousino Chair, EPIC (promotes community activism and networking of Toledo’s young professionals)

With the new administration, I expect to see a strong effort towards collaboration and teamwork with the individuals that have been chosen to lead our city.

The area of potential for Toledo to achieve national recognition is based on the strong presence of the alternative energy sector that has developed in our region over the past few years.  This is still in the early stages of development and will increasingly grow due to the changes of energy sources that will be available as we move into the future.
  • Wade Kapszukiewicz Lucas County Treasurer

Toledo is absolutely becoming a national leader in the new energy economy, especially solar power.  The work being done by the University of Toledo and others is truly remarkable, and it has put this region in a position to make a big comeback over the next 10 years.  That is powerful branding.  It would be foolish not to build on this momentum.

Stay positive — Toledo’s best days are ahead of us!

  • Randy Oostra CEO, ProMedica Health System

In 2010, we expect to see more transparency and a greater emphasis on quality, greater accessibility to specialty care close to home, as well as more collaboration among area health care providers.  Given these economic times, and the financial pressures that go hand in hand, we anticipate that we’ll see more charity care and bad debt.

We encourage people to volunteer and partner with non-profit organizations to assist them during the current economic downturn. Volunteering is a great way to make a difference-at work or your school, through your church, or with your family. In order to influence positive changes in our community, we must serve as good stewards and ambassadors and the first step is to get involved. Toledo is a great city and the compassion and involvement of the citizens throughout the region is tremendous. Working together, we can continue to take solid steps that will allow this area to experience a recommitment to making northwest Ohio the best to live, work and call home.

In 2010 I expect to see amazing growth in community gardens, urban agriculture and small livestock.  When the going gets tough, the tough get growing.

  • Marcy Kaptur Ohio’s 9th District, U.S. House of Representatives

Our challenge in manufacturing is to remain innovative in the auto sector. Frankly, I’d like to produce a Toledo truck or car. When our people created Jeep half a century ago, it became a world symbol.  We didn’t import it. We built it. Our generation must remember our roots and build forward.

The Southwyck area might be ideal for an indoor, modern equestrian show ring, drawing competitions from near and far. Lucas County alone has 5,000 horse owners. With Turnpike access, that location can accommodate traffic from across the Midwest and attract dollars to our region.

We must think globally and act locally. Let’s find locations that can house and market locally-grown and locally-made products.  Let’s enhance our vision of the farmers’ market to reconnect our countryside and expand in-city growers. Let’s urge local restaraunteurs to turn some of their fantastic ethnic recipes into shelf/freezer ready products. If Betty’s Dressing and the peanut butter blossoms (cookies topped with a Hershey Kiss) were created in our area, what else is possible now?

  • Paul Toth President, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority (promotes transportation and shipping-based economic development throughout northwest Ohio)

In the coming year, we will continue to develop Toledo’s critical transportation assets. The expansion and reconfiguration of the International Air Cargo Hub at Toledo Express Airport will be one of the most visible improvements that we will see in early 2010.

Additionally, we will be modernizing the Port Authority’s seaport facilities with an excess of $40 million in improvements in 2010 and 2011. These improvements will provide the port with more efficient and diversified cargo handling capabilities, better rail connectivity, roadway access improvements, and bulk product handling equipment to allow Toledo to be more competitive on handling various cargoes.

  • Gary Johnson President, Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

We have the talent to reinvent ourselves in an environment that is in touch with today’s needs and allows both labor and management to reap rewards by focusing on green energy and technology, and manufacturing.

I urge Toledoans to educate themselves on what jobs will become available and make sure they are ready to fill those positions. There is no bigger attraction for a company than a trained workforce that is ready to fill needed positions.

  • Joseph Tafelski Executive Director, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.

The decline in our economy and the resulting effects of foreclosures have brought a significant increase in requests for legal aid. We are helping people who never before thought they would need legal assistance. Many of these people are newly unemployed and are facing the daunting task of day to day survival. Requests for help have grown tremendously in the areas of foreclosure and eviction defense; consumer issues such as bankruptcy and debt collection; health care and other government benefits areas such as food stamps, Medicaid, and Medicare issues; and domestic violence victims seeking Civil Protection Orders and other safety measures.

Toledo can achieve national recognition by responding to the current recession with vision for the future and compassion toward those in the community who are struggling.  The actions taken now by our local leaders in responding to the foreclosure crisis, loss of jobs and struggling schools will either prepare us to be stronger when the recession is over, or will leave us divided and struggling for long into the future.  If Toledo is to earn national recognition, it will happen by showing the rest of the country how a community comes together and creates innovative solutions to its problems, neighborhood by neighborhood.