Note: Thank you to the Norwalk Reflector/Sandusky register for publishing the following article in the September 16, 2023 edition of The Weekender (Sandusky Register Link)
Celebrating 20 Years
Norwalk Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) is celebrating 20 years of development! NEDC will commemorate its vibrant, impactful history at the sophisticated “Network After Work and Annual Awards Ceremony” on Thursday, September 21st at Sandy Ridge Vineyards.
With a tradition of being driven by motivated and inspired private business leaders, NEDC has always pursued economic and community growth with a Norwalk flavor. Originally formed in 1994 as the Norwalk Revitalization Corporation, the visionary group successfully spearheaded the 1996 Main Street streetscaping project. To build off this success, the group started a “Main Street Program” with Heritage Ohio. In 2003, the Norwalk Revitalization Corporation broadened its mission to become the lead economic development organization for the Norwalk area and was “reincorporated” as the Norwalk Economic Development Corporation.
A Steady Mission of Development
Since 2003, NEDC’s mission has been “to identify and capitalize on opportunities to continuously improve the Norwalk area’s business base.” Its responsibilities are to work collaboratively with local business, institutions and economic development partners to strengthen Norwalk’s position in the regional, state, national and global economy by:
- Supporting the retention and growth of existing businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Assisting in the creation of quality workforce and employment opportunities.
- Attracting and encouraging businesses and individuals to live and work within the Norwalk Area, by way of continuous and calculated promotional effort.
The Early Years
Over its 20 years, NEDC has been managed by four Executive Directors, each making their own distinct impact on the community and shepherding impactful projects and deals for the community. At its inception, NEDC recruited a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) to Norwalk, Ohio in Bethany Dentler (Current: Executive Director, Medina County Economic Development Corporation). Bethany immediately laid the foundation of organizational strength for NEDC by creating its brand and logo. She set the tone for the next 20 years by broadly engaging stakeholders and developing and implementing the organization’s first strategic plan. NEDC led several projects and initiatives during this time. Most notably; securing a brownfield grant for the demolition of the old Norwalk Foundry on North Pleasant Street and launching “Business Appreciation Week” where the organization visited, celebrated, and supported over 100 companies in just one week. Business Appreciation Week was recognized with an award from the International Economic Development Council.
Resilience and Recovery
As the economy shifted, so did NEDC’s trajectory. In 2008, Ellen Heinz (Current: Economic Development Representative for Ohio at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration) took the helm. Ellen led the organization and community through tough times for Norwalk as we went through and recovered from the Great Recession. Ellen’s tenure is marked by unparalleled alignment between the public and private sectors in Norwalk which led to several monumental economic development wins for Norwalk. In 2009, the community saw the retention and expansion of New Horizons Baking Company. The company invested millions of dollars, notably building a rail spur to bring flour directly into the facility and secure their future in Norwalk for years to come. In 2015, NEDC and Norwalk celebrated the attraction of Borgers Group (now a part of Autoneum). With around 90 employees as Borgers began production in Norwalk, the company now employs over 500 and is strategically growing throughout the world.
In 2016, the torch was passed to Heather Horowitz. Heather’s time is marked by preparation for the future. With a strong focus on strategic planning, Heather ensured NEDC evolved into a modern economic development organization and was one step ahead to face the challenge of the generation – workforce shortages due to a shrinking population and labor pool and growing jobs. Heather fostered regional and state collaboration to bring workforce development partnerships and funding to Norwalk through the Firelands Manufacturing Alliance, Firelands Forward, and the Huron County Business Advisory Council with local school districts. While maybe better off forgotten, Heather also navigated small and large businesses alike through the COVID crisis including deploying the small business stabilization grant.
Building on a Tradition of Partnership
In 2021, Sarah Ross joined NEDC and has continued to build on the organization’s first two decades of success and lead it into its third. In the last two years NEDC has helped business partners secure over $1.6 Million in economic development incentives to grow their companies in Norwalk. Together with Board President Zach Jones, President of Janotta & Herner, the NEDC team is looking forward to the 20th anniversary celebration. At the event, current NEDC board and staff leaders will celebrate this rich history, thank the over 80 volunteer leaders that have served on the board to make this work possible, and look to the future of economic and community growth in Norwalk.
This year, NEDC will be celebrating the past, present, and future with its annual awards. Steve Euton, Norwalk City Council President and longtime NEDC board member will receive the “Pushing the Envelope” Award for his years of service in building a strong public-private partnership with the City of Norwalk and NEDC. Honoring its Main Street roots, NEDC will award The Loft at 36 Eleven with its innovation award for their continual efforts to keep their main street business storefront fresh and growing. And looking to the future, business achievement awards will be given to Ken Ganley Automotive Group for its $10 Million + investment in facilities in Norwalk, transforming the City’s northern corridor, and to Mi Pueblo Mexican and Latin Grocery for taking a risk in our community and successfully opening its brick and mortar with plans to expand already within the first year.
These awards will be recognized with live music, food, and video presentations at Sandy Ridge Vineyards at 5:30pm on Thursday, September 21st. All Norwalk area stakeholders, businesses, and supporters are welcome. Register here for September 21, 2023 Network After Work.