When Ben Garlich took over as mayor of Middlefield Village on January 1, 2012, he had one thing on his mind – build the economic base of this community.
"I wanted to get the Village of Middlefield back on the growth track," explains the no-nonsense Garlich, who is also employed at Dillen Products as the plant manager.
Garlich's first step as mayor was to form an Economic Development Committee (EDC) with the mandate to draft and adopt an economic development plan to guide Village growth. The committee includes village councilmen Bill Blue, Ron Wiech and residents Dave Dietrich, Dave McDowell and Dick Schill. Additional responsibilities of this committee include reviewing all matters concerning the promotion of new commercial and industrial development within the Village of Middlefield as well as the preservation and enhancement of current commercial and industrial businesses and residential properties within the Village. By March 26, less than one month since its formation, the EDC presented a draft of the document to village council, who immediately adopted the plan.
The EDC readily acknowledges several years have elapsed since the Village of Middlefield actively solicited business prospects for new commercial and industrial development. This will change. With the economic downturn in the U.S. economy, new development projects stalled, and businesses struggling to stay afloat, Middlefield Village officials understand the importance of it's local government becoming a willing partner with business.
According to Garlich, who is passionate about solidifying a working relationship between business and government, Middlefield's governmental bodies are committed to fostering, promoting and encouraging investment in the community.
The economic development plan includes the foundation to accomplish a disciplined schedule of goals and objectives to significantly impact the economic vitality of the Village.
"This Economic Development Plan is the key to the door of prosperity," describes Mayor Garlich. "We believe the Village of Middlefield's government role is to facilitate a favorable governmental atmosphere for enriching the quality of life of our citizens through a healthy economy. To achieve this, the Village of Middlefield, will seek economic development which is supportive of the needs of our citizens, enriches our community life and promotes our values of self-reliance, individualism, and entrepreneurship."
Garlich says growth in the Village of Middlefield will be integrated and balanced to preserve its rural character and quality of life – economically, environmentally, and socially. He insists that a vibrant economic environment will encourage investment in residential, commercial and industrial property.
The goals and objectives of the newly approved Economic Development Plan have merit, are aggressive but achievable, according to Garlich.
"We want to institutionalize economic development in Village government by maintaining an active and energetic EDC that promotes economic development for the Village. This will be achieved through periodically reviewing Village ordinances that affect business development and enacting enhancements, such as zoning regulation ordinances and any economic development ordinances." Garlich also plans to organize semi-annual or quarterly forums between the EDC and business leaders to discuss shared interests to overcome remaining obstacles that threaten economic growth.
He says the EDC will also develop local incentives for new and expanding businesses and assign a point person and Rapid Response Team to promptly respond to potential opportunities for economic development. "We are also pursuing grant opportunities to fund economic development activities," adds Garlich.
A second goal is to attract new business and industries to the Village through establishing a working relationship with the Geauga Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) and Geauga Growth Partnership; develop a quality internet website; and formalize marketing strategies to get the word out that "Middlefield Means Business."
The third goal of the economic development plan is the implementation of a retention, enhancement and expansion program for existing businesses and business activity.
"We developed a business 'attributes and advantages' inventory that pinpoints opportunities. A close analysis of Middlefield's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, or SWAT, reveals several avenues worth investigating to achieve economic growth and retention in our region," insists Garlich.
Among the identified strengths in the Village of Middlefield is a strong non-union labor force; a wealth of undeveloped commercial/industrial property; public water and sewer; and convenient access to transportation routes throughout the nation. "This region is also home to a host of raw material used in making plastics, glass and polymer research," stresses the mayor.
"By developing incentives specific to the Village, and further improving transportation connectivity, commercial and industrial growth will occur," continues Garlich. Other strengths identified by the EDC include:
The EDC identified industries to be targeted, including:
"The Village of Middlefield provides an ideal midpoint between major supply sources in Cleveland, Youngstown, Warren and Erie, PA," says Garlich. "The Village can promote these industries by providing a regulatory environment to meet the needs for industries looking to locate here."
"Middlefield will offer a broad array of incentives available at the Federal, State and local levels, such as tax incentives for investment in the community, active public-private partnerships, and Revolving Loan Funds," explains the savvy businessman and mayor. Many State and Federal incentives are available directly to businesses, such as Small Business Administration loans. Others provide loans or grants to the Village of Middlefield for investment in economic development or programs that involve some contribution or participation by the Village. Local incentive packages include:
Garlich says each incentive package will be tailored to the business applicant to integrate other County, State and Federal incentives unique to the situation, such as rural job creation, job training, and industry-specific incentives.
According to Dan Weir, Village Administrator and Tax Abatement Housing Officer for Middlefield, there is approximately 397 acres of residential property; 115 acres of commercial property and 234 acres of industrial development property currently available in the Village of Middlefield to facilitate growth.
"I graduated from Cardinal High School and my two children are proud Cardinal High graduates. My one daughter went on to graduate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law; my other daughter then earned bachelor and master degrees in speech pathology. Today, both are highly successful," states Garlich, who also served as the Village of Middlefield Mayor from 1994 to 1999 and on Village council for 18 years. "Something has happened in our schools since that time that needs to be corrected. I want strong schools for Middlefield residents and prospering businesses. I am 150 percent committed to making sure both happen."
"The Village of Middlefield has never had an organized incentive program to facilitate economic development. Well, times are changing," declares Mayor Garlich. "Let businesses and manufacturers know far and wide – Middlefield wants your business. 'Middlefield' is now synonymous with 'business.'"