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Council shares thoughts on challenges

Cary Ashby • Jan 26, 2019 at 4:00 PM

Sandusky City Manager Eric Wobser said the “attraction and migration of talented people” to the area is important in economic development. 

That’s one of the kernels of wisdom that the Sandusky native shared with Norwalk city council members during a training session Tuesday in the Norwalk Economic Development Corp. conference room. 

“The area has a talent development problem,” said Wobser, an Edison High School graduate.

However, council president Steve Euton said “the bread and butter of Norwalk are the Norwalk entrepreneurs who grew up here.” He used examples of the many businesses that have started and stayed in the Maple City area.

Wobser returned to Sandusky after working in the Cleveland area, mostly in community development, for several years. One of his advantages as a city administrator he said is being a Sandusky native who hadn’t lived there in a long time, which has allowed him to see situations and needs from a different perspective than a person who has lived in the city his entire life.

Councilman Dave Wallace said he believes Norwalk needs to define what it wants to be. He pointed out that the city can’t offer what Sandusky, Huron and Vermilion does because it isn’t a lake community.

“We can’t be want we want to be unless we know what we want to be,” Wallace said. “That seems to be our challenge.”

Euton said another challenge of local economic development isn’t just defining what Norwalk is, but that “everyone wants the big thing.” When he moved to the city in 1989, he said one of the things that caught his attention was people who no longer lived or worked in Norwalk “talked highly of it.” 

As an incoming resident when he drove down Main Street, Euton said one of his first impressions is “what an awesome down town.”

Wobser was complimentary of what Norwalk has to offer. He said the city is “a tremendous leader in small-city education” with the public and Catholic schools.

“There are a lot of places that would kill for the downtown that Norwalk has,” Wobser added.

As an Edison student who grew up in Sandusky, Wobser considers himself an “outsider” who is familiar with the many assets in Norwalk. He noted its thriving downtown, “the music scene” and events that “people have responded to,” such as the first years of Imagine Norwalk. 

Wobser shared that a city’s economic development plan should be geared toward an “aspirational average resident” without ever ignoring the input from the “average resident.”

Councilwoman Samantha Wilhelm told Wobser she returned to Norwalk partially because her family and its business, and she appreciates when people come back and see the city’s “gems.” She said having people tout the best of Norwalk is just as important as keeping in touch with those residents who have an eye for what the future might hold.

“I like the way you speak to self-fulfilling prophecies,” Wilhelm said. 

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