Perrysburg, OH Ohio Sea Grant is helping the economies of Lake Erie communities thrive by fostering relationships between local businesses and city leaders.
“We’re trying to make those connections,” said Joe Lucente, associate professor and extension educator with Ohio Sea Grant. “We help establish relationships between city decision-makers and the business community itself, building foundations of trust so leaders understand the concerns and needs of the business community.”
Most recently, Ohio Sea Grant helped city officials and business leaders in Perrysburg, Ohio, implement a business retention and expansion (BR&E) program. The effort, led by the City of Perrysburg and the Perrysburg Area Chamber of Commerce, culminated in a 94-page final report, published in December.
BR&E programs use information about the state of existing businesses and the existing workforce as “barometers” to gauge a community’s economic health. Research shows that in Ohio, 70% of average net job growth comes from existing businesses, and that number increases to as high as 86% in rural areas. The success and growth of existing businesses support a larger tax base, increased local spending, enhanced public services, and an overall better quality of life.
“Especially in smaller communities, most of the jobs that are created across Ohio and across the country for that matter are created by your existing business base,” Lucente said. “That’s exactly why this program is so important.”
In Perrysburg, Lucente worked as a project consultant to introduce the program, guide city leaders through the process, and develop a questionnaire for businesses. He helped conduct a similar program in the city in 2017 as well as a specialized pandemic survey in 2020.
The latest survey, conducted in September and October of 2023, asked business owners to share their opinions of Perrysburg as a place to do business, future plans for expansion or contraction, and immediate and long-term needs or concerns. The goal is to provide city leaders with insights about the business community.
“Now this information is in the hands of all those decision-makers,” Lucente said. “So they’re armed with what we’re hearing straight from the horse’s mouth. The business owners tell us what their needs and concerns are, and it provides the blueprint for what leaders need to decide moving forward.”
The report shows encouraging signs about Perrysburg’s economy. The majority of the 75 businesses who responded to the survey plan to expand, modernize, or renovate their business within the next 1-3 years and add an estimated 222 new jobs. Those jobs are expected to contribute $12 million in personal income to the local economy.
As for retention of jobs, the report found that businesses will retain around 1,000 to 2,100 full-time equivalent jobs, estimated to contribute between $56 million to $117 million to the local economy. Businesses reported that they only expect to lose 22 jobs, representing a $1.2 million loss.
“This is a great snapshot of a community that’s doing very well,” Lucente said. “When decision-makers see these numbers, they’re saying, ‘given the sample size of the community, our economy is pretty robust and things are looking up.”
Through the surveys, businesses seeking further assistance were also able to request a consultation visit by city officials to sit down and discuss options, Lucente said. Another goal is to conduct BR&E programs on a regular, annual basis to keep building trust and encouraging communication.
“By doing this program, we’re making people aware that Perrysburg is not only open for business, but they’re concerned about the existing businesses in their communities and how they can help them survive and thrive,” Lucente said.
The report also includes an action plan that community and business leaders can follow to sustain local economic prosperity. Objectives include encouraging cooperation, improving the quantity and quality of the local workforce, and connecting business with resources available through local, state, and federal agencies.
Moving forward, Lucente will continue to develop BR&E programs for Perrysburg and other communities in Ohio. Since 1986, Ohio State’s Business Retention & Expansion Program has assisted community leaders via more than 140 programs in 77 Ohio counties.
“It doesn’t change no matter the size of the community we’re working in,” Lucente said. “I’ve conducted this program myself nearly 20 times over the years, statewide, countywide, in small municipalities such as Perrysburg, and everything in between. It’s a really high-impact program.”
People interested in conducting a BR&E program in their own municipality or county can contact Lucente at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Lucente’s work with Ohio Sea Grant, click here.
Ohio Sea Grant is supported by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, and NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 34 Sea Grant programs nation-wide dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. Stone Laboratory is Ohio State’s island campus on Lake Erie and is the research, education, and outreach facility of Ohio Sea Grant and part of CFAES School of Environment and Natural Resources.