Erie County Economic Development Corporation
Memorable Moments
There's never been a more relevant time to say, "what a year." While there was no shortage of great stories of business growth and perseverance to share with you in this year, it certainly felt different when choosing and telling the stories. While some industries and companies saw growth and experienced celebratory milestones, many other businesses and shops were treading water, navigating challenges they never expected and hope to never see again. It's for times like these that offices like ours exist. ECEDC was first established following the 1980's recession. Our mission has always been to grow economic opportunities and facilitate the creation and retention of jobs. And that's the role that ECEDC has played in this unprecedented year.

While we've certainly been busy, it's not been easy. Ranging from conversations with hundreds of small business owners, wracking our brains and our toolboxes to figure out how to make their business successful while being mandated to keep doors closed, to helping employers navigate an abundance of new support programs with confusing and changing guidelines - every moment of 2020 has brought something new. At least there's one thing we can say with certainty this year - we are not the same organization we were a year ago. To give you a look into ECEDC's evolution over this pandemic year, and to top off the 12 Days of Development, we'd like to share 12 of our favorite moments from our work. Here are 12 quick glimpses into our favorite moments and accomplishments at ECEDC - 12 Days IN Development:
 
ONE | Launching Firelands Forward
What started years ago as a group of forward-thinking business leaders coming together to define the greatest challenges facing our region (The Firelands Partnership), led to a year-long, community-wide strategic planning process in 2019, and resulted in new regional workforce development capacity - Firelands Forward. In 2020, we welcomed Alex Jones, Director, and Kelleigh Beatty, Project Coordinator to facilitate this two-county collaborative with a mission to grow our region’s economy by connecting a stable, skilled, and supported labor force to meaningful and sustaining employment.
TWO | Attracting Ardagh
Along with other difficult news in early 2020 came the official announcement that IAC would be ceasing operation at its Huron plant. Fortunately, the 340,000 square foot facility on 70 acres at 1608 Sawmill Parkway in Huron had a lot to offer potential new users, including a dedicated electric substation and rail spur. Ultimately, ECEDC was able to work with Colliers International to provide all the necessary information and introductions to secure the facility as a new manufacturing site for Ardagh Group. We are thrilled to welcome Ardagh with 200 new jobs in Erie County in 2021.
THREE | Going Virtual
Zoom and Teams and WebEx, oh my. We've all adapted to this new way of doing business, but there are just some things we wish we could still do face to face, like our Annual Meeting. While we typically love gathering with 400 of our closest companions at Kalahari for some appetizers and economy talk, 2020 required a virtual switch. ECEDC held our annual meeting via webinar. To supplement the program and be sure our office is the most accessible we can be, we redesigned our website, and released a series of promotional videos about how to work with us. This campaign was aptly titled - All Hands on Deck.
FOUR | Embodying "All Hands On Deck" through Small Business Grant Programming
This year ECEDC was able to leverage partnerships to facilitate direct financial aid to small businesses. We partnered with The Dorn Charitable Trust at Erie County Community Foundation, the Erie County Commissioners, and Margaretta Township Trustees to grant $120,000 to 47 small businesses. Through these programs we have had more direct contact and counseling with small businesses than ever before. This equipped us to respond quickly when with just one week left in the year, two generous donors and the Erie County Community Foundation needed help executing their vision to support local restaurants and hungry families. This week, ECEDC coordinated the procurement of 1,000 meals from 12 local restaurants. Contact us if interested in continuing this movement.
FIVE | Leveraging new Programs for Local Businesses
Speaking of grants, we've also been able to take advantage of several new grant programs offered by JobsOhio and our partners at TeamNEO. This year ECEDC secured state support for 2509 Hayes Ave, Sandusky Packaging, the Chef's Garden, and Mucci Farms, with several more projects in the pipeline. With a relatively new administration and changing economic conditions, JobsOhio programs are always adapting - keep in touch to stay up to date on what's available.
SIX | Producing "Explore your Future Erie County"
When local students were sent home for Spring Break and never returned to school, our Business Advisory Council knew there had to be a way to still provide career exposure at local companies. We quickly banded together to produce a virtual career exploration series and corresponding classwork for high school juniors and seniors. These 30-minute segments can be viewed on our YouTube playlist.
SEVEN | Hosting Summer Interns
With increased demand for business support, launching a new workforce initiative, and navigating the new business environment, it was incredibly helpful to have two extra sets of hands on board with ECEDC this summer. Thanks to Erie County Community Foundation we were able to host Joe Comparette from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and James Hill from University of Michigan. Both brought unique perspectives, strengths, and infusions of energy to the team. Major accomplishments included coordinating delivery of 55 PPE kits to local businesses and building the infrastructure of MBET.
EIGHT |  Activating the Minority Business Empowerment Team
What's MBET? It's our acronym for the newly formed grassroots partnership movement - Minority Business Empowerment Team. Still in its infancy, MBET brings ECEDC and RISE together with the City of Sandusky staff, Commissioners Harris and Twine, Sandusky City Schools, Business Management Teacher Jarvis Cole-Caston, and minority business owners Spencer and Amber Patterson, Bridget Sanders, and the support of many other invested residents to bring our mission to life: To champion minority business development through collective and intentional entrepreneur support that improves the economic, social, and personal standing for all minority entrepreneurs in the Greater Sandusky Area.  

NINE | Acquiring the Erie County Port Authority
As much as it sounds like it has to do with boats and has you wondering what is ECEDC thinking?, it's actually a powerful economic development tool used to bring savings to projects. With tools including bond financing, sales tax savings incentives, and the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program, ECPA & ECEDC can bring tangible benefits to your large expansion or construction project. In January 2020, ECEDC will assume management responsibilities of the port which reports to its own private board of directors.

TEN | Coaching Local 7th grade students in the "Pitch Challenge"
Although it doesn't seem like it's possible that students were in school in 2020, and that we were in school working with them, it is. Throughout the first couple of months of 2020, we worked with over 100 seventh grade students hosting the "Pitch Challenge". The Pitch Challenge is a simple set of activities that help kids learn creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, and presentation skills. Watch Ingrid pitch her new product the "BA Sensory Headband" in the video below. We had a blast working with our next generation of entrepreneurs.
ELEVEN | Receiving the International Economic Development Council's Entrepreneurship Award
It was an honor to receive IEDC's highest ranking - Gold - in 2020. The award recognizes RISE's unique partnership with private developers H2 Property Holdings, and public partners including the City of Sandusky, to implement the “Emerging Sandusky Business Grant Initiative.” The innovative grant program supported the redevelopment of four historic buildings in downtown Sandusky through rent abatement to early stage entrepreneurs. It leveraged financing from local developers, social capital of public partners, ambition of local entrepreneurs, and the technical expertise of RISE to make this catalytic downtown project a success.
TWELVE | Making Room for Growth
So where does ECEDC host two summer interns, store 55 PPE kits, and fit two new Firelands Forward staff? Good questions! For those of you who've visited us in the 247 Columbus Ave County building prior to COVID, you may not recognize it when you make your way back! We've converted our conference room to serve as workforce HQ (Alex and Kelleigh's offices) and merged Abbey's office with the conference room. Just like most of you, we've missed going out, so we had to put a little elbow grease into making our "home" more comfortable. Thanks to local business Patina46 for help with project. We're working towards the day when you can come see the space for yourself!
Whew, it was a busy year. We hope you enjoyed the ECEDC stroll down memory lane in the annual "Days of Development." There is much cause to celebrate past successes and new beginnings in Erie County. Congratulations to all the businesses featured in our series. We look forward to working with you in 2021!