March 21, 2014 – Tiffin, Ohio – I am pleased to announce that a meaningful step has been taken toward possible revitalization of downtown Tiffin with the formation of East Tower LLC and, more importantly, its ownership of the former East Junior High School building at the corner of East Market and Jefferson streets.
National Machinery and the Frost-Kalnow family have had a long history of community support and involvement. As a global leader in its industry, National Machinery has proudly maintained its world headquarters in Tiffin for well over a century. This year we celebrate our 140th anniversary as a company. Contributing to our success over the years has been the quality of workforce in the Seneca County area, and the simple fact that Tiffin is a desirable place to live for many of our employees.
Unfortunately, Tiffin has had various set-backs over recent decades, ranging from the closure of factories and businesses to shrinking population and fiscal stress, as well as our own dose of drug problems that have spread across much of America. Adding to these issues is a less than vibrant downtown with too many empty buildings and threats to the town’s historical architecture, heritage, and beauty.
Despite these problems, some of us believe Tiffin could be on the verge of a renaissance. There is a promising landscape. We now have various successful and growing manufacturers and other businesses in town, many with local ownership like National. We have two vibrant universities with strong leadership. There seems to be a new energy with our elected officials and genuine interest in progress. Our economic development organizations, SIEDEC and Tiffin Tomorrow, are joining together to forge a better future today. Our Chamber of Commerce is more active than ever with good leadership. Lastly, I feel a large host of people in Tiffin and Seneca County continues to exhibit a deep passion for our town. They want to see a revitalization that might spring into a further renaissance of the community as an even better place to live and work.
Both National Machinery and I personally seek to help Tiffin achieve this possible renaissance. As a potentially meaningful step to that end, I am happy to publicly confirm that the old East Junior High building is now under local ownership with the desire and means to try to make this key property into a catalyst for a re-vitalized downtown Tiffin. Built in 1893 as the original Columbian High School when Tiffin was a boom town in the late 19th century, the edifice is an
architectural masterpiece. Now owned by East Tower LLC, which is in turn owned by me personally, the property is ready to be restored and developed as part of a hoped for greater revitalization of downtown Tiffin.
There may be various development possibilities for the East Tower. With that in mind, I have reached out to SIEDEC / Tiffin Tomorrow. The initial response from David Zak, the new president of SIEDEC, is very encouraging to me, as I feel he agrees that the East Tower is a strategic property whose restoration and re-opening could not only help drive new economic development for downtown but also act as a catalyst for Tiffin altogether.
There are a number of citizens who have already begun to talk about the use of this property as a new justice center. A recently published study, however, recommended deployment of Tiffin’s splendid city green (where the old courthouse stood) as a site for a proposed new $8,500,000 justice center. I do not believe the sponsors of this study ever seriously considered the East Tower as a site.
Certainly, the study failed to identify me as the owner of the property, none the less take into account that the new owner is a friendly local party with the ability to help make this an outstanding and economical public facility. Moreover, the study assumed demolition of this historic and attractive building, which of course would add costs to a project on this site. But, does it also betray a bias by the sponsors of the study for yet another destruction of historic downtown Tiffin? I would hope that our elected officials listen to the citizenry, and take seriously the East Tower as a viable alternative for a new justice center. Together we can make this possible. Together we can make it a resounding win-win.
At the end of the day, National Machinery and I are pledged to help make Tiffin an even better place to live and work. I wish to contribute the East Tower as a key ingredient to the mix. The crux is to harness citizens’ combined passion for Tiffin into a path of progress. The prominent and historical East Tower can now serve as a cornerstone for a revitalized downtown.