Lud Huck and Rod Crider lead the Wayne Growth Partnership, a collaboration of local business, government, higher education and philanthropy that has been a member of the Fund for Our Economic Future since 2004.
What’s the story behind the Wayne Growth Partnership? In 2004, a group of Wayne County’s civic leaders formed the Growth Partnership for the purpose of joining the Fund for Our Economic Future.
Our members include:
- Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) – Dr. Bill Ravlin
- City of Orrville – Mayor Dave Handwerk
- City of Rittman – Mayor Bill Robertson
- City of Wooster – Mayor Bob Breneman
- Seaman Corp – Dick Seaman, President and CEO, Seaman Corp
- Noble Foundation – Dave Noble, president
- Wayne County Commissioners – Ann Obrecht
- Wayne Community Foundation – Sara Patton, Exec Director
- Wooster Chamber of Commerce – Justin Starlin
- Wayne Economic Development Council – Rod Crider, Lud Huck
Wayne County encompasses Wooster and the surrounding communities. Some might not even consider this part of Northeast Ohio. Why did your group feel it was important to commit time and financial resources to a regional effort like our Fund? We wanted a seat at the table as the region’s economic competitiveness agenda was being developed. Our members realize that the whole region is interconnected – through industries, supply chains, transportation, logistics and employment in general. For example, recent statistics show that 29% of employees who work in Wayne County live in other counties and 24% of Wayne County residents work outside of our county. A healthy regional economy is essential to the economic health of Wayne County; we all rise and fall with the same tide.
We also wanted to be able to contribute to the regional economic development organizations the Fund helped grow and sustain, like JumpStart, NorTech, TeamNEO and MAGNET. We didn’t have the resources to contribute to all of those organizations, but we were able to support them financially through the Fund.
How have Wayne County – and you personally – benefited from Fund membership? The Fund has a policy that its grantees must work throughout the region and those organizations have gone out of their way to come to Wayne County, learn about our needs, and provide assistance. JumpStart, NorTech, Team NEO, and MAGNET have provided great support for our businesses and educational institutions.
We’re also excited about Fund-sponsored research on an Ag-Bio cluster; this could have a huge impact on our county and the region. And the Fund has made sure Wayne County is represented in its Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy work with the business community.
We’ve also developed strong business relationships and friendships with the people and organizations connected with the Fund. They’ve provided new perspectives and helped us learn a great deal about how other communities are leveraging their own assets and innovating in their own businesses and economic development work. The Fund has been a springboard to new opportunities for our area and greater collaboration both locally and regionally. For example, we have been working with a group from Lorain County that is interested in learning about our Local Roots Market and its business operations.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in Wayne County? For the last seven years in a row, Wayne County has been recognized in the top six of 576 micropolitan areas in the country – and was recently recognized as one of the top ten micros in North and South America. We’ve seen over a billion dollars in additional capital invested in the region over the past 12 years. While we’ve had some big wins attracting new businesses like Daisy Brand to our county, much of the growth has come from already-established businesses like Smuckers, LuK and Tekfor. Wayne County benefits from our diversity of industries, which range from health care services, automotive, titanium metal processing and food processing to equipment manufacturing for the firefighting and the oil & gas industries and a growing IT cluster.
Lud Huck was born and raised in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. A graduate of Queens College , he served three years in the US Air Force and spent the bulk of his career as an executive with General Electric Co. and Curtis Mathes. Lud moved to Wayne County in 1989 to develop new ventures for Rubbermaid Inc. He and his wife Margaret have been married 54 years; they have two sons and three grandchildren. Lud received a 2013 Excellence in Volunteerism award from the Ohio Economic Development Association.
Rod Crider has spent his career working on economic development in Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee and Indiana before moving to Wooster in 2005 to lead the Wayne Economic Development Council. He and his wife Rita have four adult children who live in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Ohio and a granddaughter, Abigayle.