LIMA — Incoming Greater Lima Region President/CEO Doug Olsson is hopeful the organization will see more success in its regional outreach efforts soon.
Olsson acknowledged the GLR has struggled to communicate its vision — both in terms of regional collaboration and the GLR’s relationship to the Allen Economic Development Agency.
“We’re working hard to get that clarified,” Olsson told The Lima News.
The GLR is a privately funded economic development corporation separate from the Allen Economic Development Group, itself a public-private partnership funded by the GLR, city of Lima, Allen County and townships.
While AEDG is focused on economic development within Allen County, the GLR casts a wider net into Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Hardin, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam and Van Wert counties. But the regional part of GLR’s mission hasn’t taken hold quite yet.
“We’re not just an isolated economic environment here,” Olsson explained. “We are competing with other regions for jobs, for economic development, for business locations, for growth. We need to change our mindset and take a look at our competitors as being Columbus, Dayton, Fort Wayne and Toledo.
“Once we come to that realization, it drives a lot of strategic change. That is the visual demonstrating how we need to think bigger as a region.”
Gregory Myers, executive director of the Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council, said he has no objection to the idea. But he’s still waiting on further clarification from the GLR regarding how collaboration would work and what’s expected of partner agencies.
“I believe that the idea of banding together in the region makes sense,” said Myers, who explained that the WAEDC already partners with Mercer County on workforce initiatives and is aligned with the Dayton Development Coalition under JobsOhio. “This would be something different.”
Olsson said the GLR is starting to look beyond Allen County and build more dialogue between communities so collaboration is possible on a project-by-project basis.
“When we’re competing against Columbus, Dayton and Fort Wayne, I think we have to set those territorial issues aside and come together for the betterment of the region,” he said.
Olsson plans to shift the GLR’s focus away from livability — an issue which he says is already being addressed by numerous community groups — focusing instead on direct support for projects in the region that could benefit from GLR’s financial or logistical support.
He offered the examples of the Lima Rotary Club’s amphitheater park, the Allen County landbank and mixed-use projects at the Lima Mall as projects the GLR is investigating.
“That’s a very different strategy than what the GLR has taken in the past,” Olsson said. “It really segments us out from the work that AEDG is doing with private developers, business expansion and business relocation inside Allen County — that’s the purview of AEDG.”
Workforce development will continue to be at the forefront of the GLR’s efforts too, through Makerfest, site visits and intern programs.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.