Fulton County Improvement Corporation Holds 2014 Annual Meeting, Explores Change

The Fulton County Improvement Corporation (FCIC) hosted their 2014 Annual Meeting on April 10th, 2014 at the Delta Legion, Delta OH. Over 100 representatives from local and regional businesses attended the event, and heard from keynote speaker Tom Blaha, retired Wood County Economic Development Commission Director, who presented “The Opportunities and Successes of Private Sector Economic Development.”

Mr. Blaha spoke of the successes that he had in his long tenure with the Wood County Economic Development Commission. Blaha was instrumental in recruiting and retaining over 100 business entities as dues paying members to this private/public partnership resulting in over $3 billion in private sector investments and over 7,000 new jobs. The Fulton County Improvement Corporation is exploring a private/public partnership, similar to what exists in Wood County.

Business doing business with business is what Blaha notes as the key to success. “Private businesses such as banks, construction companies, realtors, contractors, manufacturers, etc., working together to bring new business to the area helps to foster economic development,” he notes. “When all of these entities work together in this manner, it’s a win-win. Jobs are created, and the companies are altruistically generating business for themselves. This ultimately creates strong, vibrant communities in which the public sector entities are proud to share with their constituents.”

“We are eager for economic development success for Fulton County,” states Commissioner Bill Rufenacht speaking on behalf of the Fulton County Commissioners. “We believe that Fulton County has a lot to offer, not only in adding new businesses to the area, but also for helping the existing businesses to continue to be able to thrive and grow. We believe that moving the operations to the private/public partnership through a 501 (c) (6) organization will be instrumental in helping to take our economic development to the next level.”

The structure for Economic Development is housed under the Fulton County Commissioners. The Economic Development position is currently vacant, and will remain vacant until further decisions are made by the new organization, which will be a 501 (c) (6) organization. The Commissioners have contracted with former Economic Development Director Shawn Ferguson to maintain the projects that are currently in the pipeline until further notice. The FCIC, is a non-profit organization that that exists to support economic development by promoting, advancing and encouraging the industrial, economic, commercial and civic development of the area and works separately, but hand in hand with the county Economic Development Department.

“In terms of economic development, no county is the same,” Blaha notes, “but we can implement some best practices that we believe will make an impact in Fulton County from other economic development models that have worked such as from the model we used in Wood County.” Blaha is currently consulting with a company called Reveille out of Bowling Green, Ohio that specializes in Planning, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and Economic Development.

The biggest change to the new private/public model will be the funding of the new organization. Private businesses will be the primary investors in this organization. The Fulton County Commissioners will still provide funding through conveyance fees, but moving it out of the public sector will allow for more business to business interaction.

“In Wood County, it was the idea of private businesses coming together to create the Wood County Economic Development Commission, but here in Fulton County, it’s your County Commissioners who are driving this. Give your County Commissioners credit for realizing this and bringing this opportunity to the table,” states Blaha.

Guests of the FCIC Annual Meeting were invited to attend a follow up meeting on April 21st, 2014 to learn more information about the new private/public partnership. This meeting is open to any business that might be interested in learning more information about becoming a part of this new initiative. If you are interested in more information regarding this meeting, contact Shannon Shulters at the Fulton County Commissioners Office at 419-337-9255.

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