This is a speech given by Crawford Partnership President & CEO David Zak on April 26, 2023 at the Celebrate Crestline Night event. Zak was one of several speakers invited to speak. See speech notes below.

Good evening, everyone. My name is David Zak, and I want to tell you tonight why I believe the future of Crestline bright, and there are two parts to my message. One, Crestline has three distinct competitive advantages for a community of its size. I believe these advantages are the community’s unique assets, bold aspirations, and ongoing investments. I believe that the community is successfully leveraging those advantages to grow its economy and improve the quality of life. Two, I want you to know that the Crawford Partnership is committed to supporting that growth through several strategic initiatives.

Crestline’s competitive advantages

The first part of Crestline’s competitive edge is its unique assets, including its transportation infrastructure, two-county location, and community pride. Rail and roadway are the first asset. The Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati railroad created the town in 1850, and CSX and Norfolk Southern, two of the top four Class 1 rail companies with a combined $27 billion in revenue, as well as the largest short line operator in the US, Genesee & Wyoming, connect to Crestline. Crestline also has an interchange on US 30, a highway that runs from Oregon to New Jersey, has the highest travel reliability in Ohio, and connects to I-71, I-75, and I-70 via US-23.

Being both in Crawford and Richland Counties is also an asset. You have twice the number of state and county officials to advocate on your behalf. You have access not only to a strong local school district, but also North Central State and the Ohio State University less than ten miles away. And with respect to parks and recreation, on the Crawford County side, you have Kelly Park, Lowe-Volk Park, the Sandusky Headwaters Reserve, the reservoir, and more. On the Richland County side, you have access to the B&O Trail and are a half hour from the amazing 1100-acre Mohican State Park.

Crestline’s contagious community pride is a third unique asset. I know of no other community like this that has an annual celebration like this, a local group like the Crestline Community Development Team, a cheerleader like the mayor, such a dedicated group of local investors and business people, and a gritty, passionate Crestline Comeback spirit that I encounter whenever I meet or talk with Crestliners.

Another competitive advantage of Crestline is its ability to dream big. Being selected as a future Amtrak station alongside Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati is remarkable. Obtaining millions of dollars in state grants, a state-subsidized loan, and engineering an industrial solar project to pay for a $19 million sewer plant is an example of how Crestline thinks outside the box.

The Crestline competitive advantage can also be found in a steady stream of economic and community development investments. Avita Health System invested $2.7 million, becoming the county’s largest employer with almost 70 percent of its total workforce in Crawford County. The Kelly Park Playscape was created as part of the Crestline Community Development Team’s Community Improvement Plan Phase III. Additionally, new businesses like Spot’s Rolling Bean coffee shop, Blue Bird Inn, and Ed’s Barber Shop have opened, adding to the colorful landscape of Crestline. This past week, Crawford County received a commendation from the Governor and Lt. Governor for ranking in the top 4% of communities like ours for economic development. Representatives from Crestline were there, and you all share in that success.

How the Crawford Partnership helps

The Crawford Partnership is committed to working with Crestline to promote and strengthen its assets and help drive economic and community development.

  • Building an Agenda: We meet weekly with local officials and are currently working on 13 economic and community development projects.
  • Economic Development/Business Retention & Expansion: We have also met or connected with 20 Crestline businesses and the organizations in the last year and assisting them access more than 200 economic and community development resources.
  • Community Development: We recently won the contract to administer the County’s community development block grant program and launched a bold, long-term initiative to help communities throughout Crawford County receive more funding for their projects, including Crestline.
  • Marketing: Finally, the Partnership is writing and distributing press releases on Crestline projects, including most recently on Joey’s and the sewer plant, and promoting the community through social media.
  • Economic Development/Real Estate: The Partnership has been working on real estate development, including maintaining information on nine commercial and industrial sites in Crestline, future development at the US 30 and State Route 61 interchange, and a new rail industrial site that will be announced soon.
  • Workforce Development: The organization has also been working on several initiatives in workforce development, including launching the Seneca CEO high school entrepreneurship, managing the online regional platform, and collaborating with the Richland Chamber and Area 10 Workforce Board to hire a full-time workforce development manager.

In summary, Crestline has an edge in transportation, location, and community spirit, and you all are working together to translate those advantages into real progress for the community. The Crawford Partnership is committed to working with Crestline to support, promote, and accelerate that progress. Thank you.