'5 Questions With' Mayor Frank Whitfield, City of Elyria

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1. As you begin the second year of your first term as Mayor of the City of Elyria, what are your plans for building the economy, culture, and community of the city?
We entered office with a strategy and a sound plan but in the words of Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face,” and the pandemic definitely dealt a strong blow to our plans. However, Elyria is a resilient community and we pressed through the challenges of the pandemic and found creative ways to keep moving the city forward. Our getting in our BAG together economic strategy remains the same, which calls for:

  • Building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs
  • Attracting employers through investing in our workforce
  • Growing the businesses in our city through partnerships

We are proud that our city council approved the Skill City Promise in December, which will allow any Elyria resident pursuing an in demand occupation to attend community college free. This is a public-private partnership that includes government and private sector investment. Those interested in investing or participating should visit cityofelyria.org/skillcity.

Our plans for community and culture definitely had to pivot and we had to adapt to more virtual and socially distanced efforts, which have made community building difficult. However, in 2021 we are hopeful that the vaccination rollout will speed up and we can get back to gathering and start to build community as well as invest in our youth and seniors.

2. What continues to be your greatest challenges and opportunities in attracting and retaining businesses to the city?
The greatest challenge we have is being a legacy city and needing to clean up old, heavy industrial sites that are no longer being used. Some of these sites are in prime locations and it’s a market failure in that the cleanup cost is too expensive for a private investor and there is a need to get support from the state and federal government to get these sites cleaned up and back on the market.

3. What keeps mayors up at night?
When I talk with my colleagues in the Ohio Mayors Alliance or the Lorain County Mayors and Managers Association, we are most concerned about our most vulnerable residents who are at risk of water shutoffs, eviction, or unemployment. Second to that would be the spread of misinformation and disinformation and the need to provide our residents with facts and accurate information. And lastly, our small businesses…sometimes business owners are reluctant to reach out for help and assistance and can suffer in silence. It keeps me up thinking “Is there a business in my city that’s struggling in silence and that we might be able to help?”

4. If you could make one ask of the Biden-Harris administration for the benefit of the City of Elyria and the State of Ohio, what would it be and why?
I have many requests of the new administration, including assisting our most vulnerable residents, small businesses, and local governments. But, if I only had one request, it would be to pass an Economic and Infrastructure Transformation Stimulus Bill that would invest in rebuilding our aging and lagging physical and technological infrastructures. I would like that bill to include upskilling our workforce to meet the needs of tomorrow’s economy. And finally, I’d like the bill to include investing in digital inclusion and ensuring all residents have digital skills, quality devices, and access to affordable internet.

5. How will you measure success?
We are excited to be working with Harvard University through a Bloomberg Philanthropy initiative to work on utilizing data to manage and measure success. We will be measuring success in the traditional ways of jobs created and residents served etc., but through this partnership we will be able to create more dynamic data metrics such as resident satisfaction, time to process permits, and other key performance indicators that will empower us to better manage the city.

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