How Ohio’s Small Cities are Regaining Their Might – A Look Inside Tiffin

Craig invited the Tiffin, Ohio team to join him on the stage at the annual Ohio APA planning conference in Cleveland this past month to tell the story of Tiffin as part of a panel on the historic rebirth of Ohio’s small cities.  Joining Craig was Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership President & CEO David Zak and Regional Planning Director Charlene Watkins.  The theme of the conference was EVOLVE and the panelists told an important story of how Tiffin had evolved past seemingly devastating failures to get things moving in the right direction.  See the presentation here and read more about Tiffin below.  Historic Rebirth: Tiffin Ohio

While many rural areas in the Midwest are facing aging populations, declining manufacturing activity and the clustering of tech and service jobs in the larger cities of Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, some rural, small cities are showing that success can come in small packages with good planning and local, strategic investment. After an ugly, long, contentious and ultimately unsuccessful fight to save the county’s historic 1884 courthouse in 2011, investors in Tiffin, Ohio started putting their money into the community and renovating the remaining historic buildings that line Tiffin’s downtown streets. Now, there are new restaurants, bars, retail stores and upper-floor loft apartments that rival any to be found in Ohio’s metropolitan areas. In fact, since 2014, the Tiffin-Seneca Micropolitan Area has ranked in the top ten percent nationally for economic development six years in a row – for three of those years, making Site Selection’s top ten list – with more than $400 million in new investment and 1600 new jobs. How Tiffin turned an ugly chapter of their history into a revitalization cover story kept the planning audience interested and engaged throughout the session that featured local future-oriented, civic-minded Tiffin residents and business owners that were guided through a historic rebirth with the assistance of unique regional and public-private partnerships such as the Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership.

4 Keys to Success

David Zak summed it up during his remarks when he said, “But how did we get here? How did we engineer that big of a turnaround? Being part of this panel has given me another chance to think about why and how all this good stuff has been able to take place. And I come again to the conclusion there is no one right answer, no silver bullet, no fortune cookie wisdom I can dispense to explain it.”  David attributed Tiffin’s success to good planning, strong leadership, the generosity & engagement of Tiffin’s residents and, savvy storytelling.

Since 2010, Tiffin has updated, completed or have underway—and are implementing— more than ten major planning efforts and studies, including plans for economic, community, downtown, workforce, and residential development and studies for transit, active transportation, and downtown parking.  Craig has spearheaded the creation of both of the downtown plans as part of Tiffin’s commitment to good planning. And Mayor Montz has been a major champion in dedicating the substantial funding needed to make these efforts happen.  Also, Tiffin will unabashedly tell you that it hasn’t hurt to have a whole new crop of leaders with the work ethic, vision, passion, and commitment to collaboration and partnership that can make some amazing things happen.  When Mayor Montz was elected at the age of 26 he was one of the ten youngest mayors in the US for a community of Tiffin’s size.  Local residents putting their money into the city that they love hasn’t hurt and in August Tiffin dedicated phase 2 of a $2 million, all privately funded downtown park called East Greet, which features a community amphitheater, splashed and contemplative garden next to Tiffin’s community garden.  And lastly, David points to the Mayor’s and others unflagging enthusiasm for telling Tiffin’s story through a robust social media and public relations campaign.

Craig first visited Tiffin in 2009 and Gossman Group is proud to partner with leaders, business owners and residents of Tiffin, Ohio and the Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership in the historic rebirth of this important Ohio city.