(1993 article by Jerry Jakes that appeared in a newsletter called The Toledo Technical Topics. The newsletter covers all of the Engineering Societies in Toledo and is
housed at the University of Toledo.)
A number of private citizens living in our region have been working on a unique concept for economic development in our area. The concept focuses on a time based strategy covering the area which is reachable in one hour's drive time from the crossroads of the North American Continent, I-80/90 East/West, and I-75 North/South. The land mass covered by this region extends from the Indiana border on the West to beyond Cedar Point on the East. From beyond Findlay on the South to Ann Arbor, Windsor, Ontario and the Southern suburbs of Detroit on the North.
Within this region are located more than 33 institutions of higher learning that will become significantly more important as our society becomes increasingly knowledge based. There are two major biomedical research facilities within less than an hour's drive time from one another: The University of Michigan Research Hospital at Ann Arbor and the Medical College of Ohio.
There are [four] International airports within one hour's drive time from one another: Detroit Metropolitan for passengers and Toledo Express Airport for international freight and cargo [along with Willow Run, and Windsor International]. There is a professional baseball team and its AAA farm club. There is the seconds best attended amusement park on the North American Continent. There are the Lake Erie Islands and it is the Walleye Capital of the world.
It's no secret that the northwest Ohio/southeastern Michigan area needs a resurgence of economic development. High unemployment and the continuing drain of industrial and middle management jobs has eroded the earning and tax-paying capability of the communities in our region, and put businesses located here at risk.
To address this need, several county development agencies, utility companies and the Chambers of Commerce of a number of area cities are actively pursuing individual economic development goals. All these activities are helpful and worthy of support. They would be significantly more effective if they were part of a larger, co-ordinated economic development program for the entire region.
It is true that to some extent, communities within this region compete with each other in stimulating economic development; however, our first and most difficult competition is with other regions nation wide, and in this battle our local communities must co-operate.
We are in a period of intense competition with such other regions to attract business, industry and tourism; many geographic areas, such as Silicon Valley, Research Park, Research Triangle, and the North Coast, have developed multi-government co-operative programs to identify their regions and market the benefits of their locations to industries world wide. To stay competitive with other locations, we must do the same.
Lake Erie West: A Business Address
Lake Erie West is not an organization. It is not a marketing theme. It is a verbal and visual identity for the region we now call northwest Ohio/southeastern Michigan. It is a business address for all companies operating in the region.
The major goal of the Lake Erie West committee is to bring about a co-ordinated effort of development activity in our own region; one which would 1) define, create and promote an umbrella identity for the northwest Ohio/southeastern Michigan region, and 2) establish a common system for attracting business, industry and tourism to the region.
Eventually, we foresee a common system for promotion, lead generation and response follow up, with communities in our region offering a professional, co-ordinated package of materials to prospective industries and businesses. We also envision building a network of business and industry support services, utilizing the fine educational and training capabilities already in our communities, to attract businesses already here. We have many goals for Lake Erie West, all compatible with the individual development efforts of other agencies.
Creation of the Lake Erie West name and symbol are among the first steps we have taken toward these goals.
Defining the Region: The Time-Based Concept
One important element of a co-operative effort among communities is overcoming the problem of political boundaries. For this reason, we propose a time-based concept for defining the Lake Erie West region. Our proposal: Lake Erie West includes any point that may be reached in one hour drive time from the strategic intersection of I-75 and I-80/90. This not only is in tune with the time-based strategies of the next decade, but allows the best in strategic public/private partnership by encouraging a joint effort which can operate freely across political boundaries.
Promoting Regional Strengths
Our region has a great many strengths which would make it exceptionally attractive to businesses and industries looking to move or expand. Our problem has never been a lack of features, just a lack of national awareness of them. Among the benefits:
- Access to Consumer Markets - Lake Erie West is the center of a 1-day drive and, 12 of the Nation's 20 largest urban areas.
- Access to Industrial Markets - That same drive time gains access to 50% of the industrial businesses in both the U.S. and Canada.
- Transportation - Lake Erie West is served by a truly complete combination of airports (Detroit Metropolitan, Toledo Express, Willow Run, and Windsor International), railways (4th largest center in the USA), highways, and the Great Lakes busiest port.
- Fresh Water - Lake Erie West has the largest supply of fresh water in the world. Water for Industrial use, for recreation, for survival in a world of shrinking supply.
- Education - Lake Erie West has more than 33 colleges and universities, and many more training facilities.
- Quality of Life - Many Lake Erie West communities provide excellent quality of life, with low cost of living and housing, cultural and sports features, quick drive times and little of the crime, social problems and hectic pace of major urban areas.
The Lake Erie West committee seeks to identify such regional benefits and promote them to outside interests providing a marketing component that has been too often missing in the past.
In short, the Lake Erie West committee is trying to provide a necessary supplement to the economic development activities of other organizations -- inter community co-operating in marketing our region. We hope you or your organization can join us in this effort to secure the economic future of our region.
What does all this mean to the technical community of Toledo? This time based regional economic development strategy puts us into the big leagues! It allows us to compete effectively with Silicon Valley on the West Coast; with the Research Triangle in Raleigh/Durham; and with the Route 128 Corridor West of Boston.
It offers the attributes of those areas without the gridlock which is associated with their locations. It positions us for effective competition in the global economy by placing us at the cross roads of the North American Continent when it becomes an economic development unit competing with the European Continent and the Pacific Rim.
It allows us to pursue the biotechnological incubators like the one located adjacent to the Medical College of Ohio and other such incubators as offshoots of the University of Michigan, Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo and others.
What are the roadblocks that will keep this time based strategy from coming to fruition? The answer to the question is you and I and every other private citizen who keeps looking to the public sector for leadership in economic development. In a capitalistic society the public sector, by definition, can implement but it cannot lead. It is straddled with all sorts of artificial roadblocks and boundaries which we recognize as city limits, county and township borers, and state lines.
In a capitalistic society the private sector is not encumbered with those artificial boundaries and, therefore, it can and must provide the leadership necessary to get any regional concept off the ground. Other regions have succeeded in the past by crossing state and county lines. We are the first region that can achieve success by crossing, not only those boundaries, but an international one as well.