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September 22, 2020

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Let's talk Bluffton for a moment

The good, the bad, the hopes, the threats

By Fred Steiner 
An opinion

The story above links to a survey about Bluffton and Allen County. The Icon answered the survey and our responses follow. We encourage other viewers to take the survey. Or click here.

• Is there a business relationship you want to develop that may add value to your company?
Several years ago older persons were mentors to high school and college students. Technology reversed that. Adults now need youth mentors with social media expertise. Adults need a network to tap into.

• Name an economic development need for your business.
It would be amazing if there was someone who was a full-time Bluffton salesperson. That person could go anywhere with a briefcase of Bluffton items and sell “Bluffton” products – Icon ads, restaurant catering, bicycles, auto rentals, school sportswear, chamber memberships, medical services, and point people in the direction of Bluffton’s professional, educational and financial services and attract businesses here.

• Name a beneficial attraction project:
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a license plate bureau in Bluffton? Even if it rotated around the county with a couple days a week here, and later in Spencerville and Delphos, for example. Could we consider this a step to decentralize county government?

• What is the strength of the Bluffton community?
Location to I-75, four-year liberal arts university, hospital, vibrant downtown, excellent school system, adequate recreational areas and parks, senior retirement community, day care center, airport, low-income apartments, senior center, public library.

• What is the weakness of the Bluffton community?
We have a tendency to relax and think “Everything is great here. We don’t need help.” That perception is our weakness. Sometimes outsiders think we have a chip on our shoulder. But, it takes a community effort to keep things moving in a positive direction. We need to continue to look forward. Our successes didn’t just happen. Our visioning should never stop.

• What is an opportunity for Bluffton?
We have well-kept retail storefronts to attract other retail stores. We are in two counties. We can benefit from both. Perhaps we are ripe for a good bed and breakfast and other small storefronts.

• What is the threat to the Bluffton community?
Lack of zoning in Orange Township is scary. Unplanned development on SR 103 with too many entrances and exits to businesses makes traffic congested. Riley Creek flooding is a negative. Some zoning issues in the village need addressed. There is a lack of appropriate parking on the west side on Main Street’s business section. Bluffton isn’t particularly welcoming to persons of other nationalities, faiths and color. The movement of state funding from public to private schools is a serious threat to small towns in Ohio.

What is the greatest business and economic development need in the Bluffton region and what assets are needed to develop a solution?
Wouldn’t it be terrific if we could shift our focus to attract tech companies? Could we envision downtown Lima’s rebirth as the tech capital of Ohio? It would take a huge commitment from everyone, but what if it worked?

We could use a visioning process with representatives of Allen County’s villages and rural townships. What works in Spencerville and Delphos? Let’s sit down and talk face-to-face. There’s strength in villages and rural Allen County that need to be heard. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for our successes.