SINCE TAKING OFFICE IN 2012, Mayor Holly Brinda and her team have implemented a gamut of strategies spurring progress for the City of Elyria, and their efforts are getting some impressive results. More than $400 million in public and private funds are flowing into nearly every aspect of the city: schools, parks, businesses, libraries, retail and housing projects, infrastructure and downtown development.
But she’s not doing it alone. Brinda is working closely with many of the town’s business leaders, along with nonprofits, education and faith-based groups.
“Our business climate is looking up,” says Brinda. “For awhile, Elyria struggled with its image, but we have turned the corner, and people have pride again. This is leading people to invest again in the Elyria community.”
Indeed, Elyria’s sprawling metro area of nearly 21 square miles provides abundant affordable land and other resources for the more than 80 manufacturers based there. Large companies like RIDGID, Invacare Corp., Parker Hannifin and BASF Corp. choose Elyria as their homebase. At the same time, many other Elyria manufacturers are in expansion mode, including Nelson Stud Welding, Elyria Foundry, Multilink Inc. and Dura-Line, just to name a few.
Most of these expanding companies are taking advantage of what the mayor calls the city’s “expanding toolbox of business incentives.” One of these tools is the Enterprise Zone Agreement, through which such incentives as tax abatements are provided to encourage companies to further invest in the community and create new jobs. Some of these expansions are taking place in vacant lots and buildings — finding new purposes for these otherwise unattended properties. Brinda says the city is always willing to look at special accommodations and will try to work with companies on their unique production needs.
In addition to the many long-standing Elyria-based manufacturers, 10 new businesses have relocated to the city since 2017. A common challenge among nearly all these manufacturers is filling the pipeline with qualified workers.
Brinda’s team is responding to this too. It has enlisted local business leaders and other partners to help fill this employment gap with an ambitious pilot program called Elyria Works Now. This public, private, nonprofit partnership aims to link unemployed or underemployed Elyria residents with local manufacturing jobs. The program’s motto: Be a maker!
“We still have challenges,” says Brinda. “We have a 22 percent poverty rate. Yet, there is a multitude of job opportunities for folks.”
Participants in Elyria Works Now receive a career coach to help them assess their strengths and interests. If needed, participants are connected with other social services — like substance abuse counseling, child care or transportation — that can help eliminate barriers to getting and keeping a job. Best of all, these resources are offered free of charge.
The program is a collaboration among community partners from throughout the city, including key educational partners like Elyria City Schools, Lorain County Joint Vocational School and Lorain County Community College, as well as many other community-based organizations.
“I hope the need for Elyria Works Now goes away someday,” says Brinda. “We are filling a gap and a need. Not enough people are pursuing the vocational opportunity — there are a lot of good entry-level positions with pathways to building skills for a bright future.”