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I remember years ago, I was meeting with a fellow economic developer and I asked: “How many companies have you recruited to your county in the last two years?” This economic developer looked at me and said NONE, very proudly. I was completely confused. Why would she be proud of that? She then giggled and said something I’ll never forget. She said we haven’t recruited any new companies to our community, but we have grown 1000 new jobs in the last two years. If there was ever a time to do a “mic drop”, it would have been then.

So here’s what happened there? This community had intentionally targeted growing their existing businesses and that’s exactly what we’d like to do in Defiance County, too.

Our office is in the process of developing a “Homegrown” program which is grounded in the premise to bring new economic prosperity by focusing on our existing community. We plan to look into our supply chain to identify supporting suppliers and potential gaps. As many of you know, a better supply chain leads to better business within a company. So why wouldn’t we be doing the same thing for our county, as a whole too? In our Homegrown program, we’re looking at creating tools business owners need. Some items discussed so far, are as follows:

  • Data analytics for new markets or trends

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • GIS Mapping which can identify a company’s footprint, potential new customer base, competition bases, etc.

  • E-Commerce consultations to launch products online

The ability to assist innovative companies is the key driver to growing our local economy. This approach aids existing businesses in growing by providing detailed information they need to address how they plan to grow strategically. One of Defiance County’s manufacturing companies has agile leadership at its core. Company leaders had anticipated that COVID-19 could disrupt their business, so prior to all the shutdowns, they hired an e-commerce expert and launched a good portion of their products on eBay and Amazon. What happened, is what I see as happening to others who take this same approach. Instead of laying off employees, they ended up hiring over 30 new employees and DURING A PANDEMIC!

We have a good start of what this program could offer or look like, but how would we ever know the true needs without asking business leaders/owners. Maybe there are other stories like above, where leaders could offer guidance -lessons learned.

Our backbone of economic development isn’t in the backbone, it actually lies right in the hearts of business leaders. If we are going to make a “Homegrown Program” work, we’ll need to depend on leaders championing the cause. One way you can help is by taking a quick survey. It will take less than 2 minutes. (Click Here) OR fill out below. Your feedback will help bring life to this program and at the same time bring sustainability to our county for the future. Before too long, we’ll be the ones… Dropping the Mic!

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