By LOU WILIN
For the third straight year, Findlay ranked first for business growth among 575 small cities nationwide in 2016, according to Site Selection magazine.
Findlay is the second community in the 29-year history of the award to be the top “micropolitan,” a city with a population between 10,000 and 50,000, for three years in a row.
Findlay won the top distinction for 2016 with 22 projects that met Site Selection’s qualifying criteria. The top projects were Whirlpool’s $40.6 million, 86,400-square-foot plant expansion, which will add 50 jobs by 2019; and over $13 million in additions to Mennel Milling in Fostoria.
Site Selection has attributed Findlay’s perennial success to what it calls the “Findlay Formula” — strong cooperation among local government, business and nonprofit organizations.
“What we do here is based on collaboration, partnership,” said Tim Mayle, director of Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development. “When we have companies in town, I’ll have the (Blanchard Valley) Port Authority at the table, (Hancock) Regional Planning, Wood County building inspector, Findlay city engineer, Hancock County engineer, utilities.”
“If it’s not in the city, we’ll have the township trustees there,” Mayle said. “Sometimes we need to get school districts involved. And we do that early and make sure we’re not running into any issues.”
Some other projects which brought Findlay to the top of the competition were the addition of 26 jobs by auto parts maker MITEC, bringing its total above 60; and investments in over $1 million in machinery by Nissin Brake Ohio and Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies, Mayle said.
Runners-up to Findlay were Cullman, Alabama; Wooster, Ohio; Shelby, North Carolina; and tied for fifth place were Tupelo, Mississippi, and Batavia, New York.
“We’re fortunate. We have location. We have low taxes. We have good quality of life. But so do a lot of other communities,” Mayle said. What sets Findlay apart is “the ability to answer people’s questions and execute,” he said.
“Findlay’s formula of collaboration between the private, public and not-for-profit sectors has proven to be successful again,” said Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik. “Year after year, our community continues to be a better place to live, learn, work and play.”
“Our economic development team has worked hard to gain momentum in the community, and enhance its focus throughout the region,” said John Haywood, chief executive officer of Findlay-Hancock County Alliance, the parent organization of Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development. “Three years in a row as the top micropolitan is something our entire community can be proud of.”
“The emphasis on retention and expansion of existing companies in our community allows for smart growth and continued investment,” said Mark Gazarek, chairman of the Hancock County commissioners.
Only one other small city has topped the business growth list more than Findlay: Mooresville, North Carolina, the location of Lowe’s headquarters.
“They got moved into the Charlotte metropolitan statistical area, so they don’t even compete with us any more,” Mayle said.
Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin