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Healy picks Torres to lead Canton's economic development efforts
By Adam Herman
Released/Published: Feb 11, 2008

Toledo native marks final appointment to Mayor's cabinet

CANTON, Ohio – Mayor William J. Healy II announced Monday that he has selected Robert Torres of Toledo to fill the position of Development Director for the City of Canton.  Torres, who previously worked in the City of Toledo's Development Department, will officially join Healy's administration in the coming weeks.

“I am thrilled to welcome Robert Torres to my Cabinet as Director of Development,” Healy said.  “Robert's experience with the City of Toledo put him miles apart from his competition during the interview process, and I am very confident that he has what it takes to lead our economic development efforts as we look toward the future.”

Torres, 45, comes to the position having already dealt with many of the issues that currently face Canton and greater Stark County.  Like Canton, Toledo was once an industrial heavyweight during its peak in the 1980's.  Following the dramatic downsizing and outsourcing of the regional automobile industry during the 1990's, the city began experiencing high unemployment, rising crime, and urban flight as residents left to pursue greener pastures.

While automobile manufacturing has not entirely disappeared from Toledo's local economy, the departure of thousands of high-paying factory jobs over the past two decades has resulted in a laundry list of problems for Ohio's fourth-largest city. 

Torres, however, believes it is this very experience that will help him to address many of the problems currently facing the city of Canton, said it was probably one of the major reasons he was chosen for the position.

 “While Toledo is a much larger city than Canton, both in geographical area and in population, the issues facing the two are very similar,” Torres said.  “Throughout my conversations with Mayor Healy, we always came back to the ways in which my work in Toledo could be reproduced  in Canton.  The pieces just started to fit together, and it became clear to both of us that we could do a lot of good if we had the chance to work together.”

Torres later went on to say that he thought Canton's smaller size would allow him to have a much more direct effect on the local economy, noting that “with less ground to cover and less people to get on the same page, it's much easier to have a direct impact on creating jobs and economic development in a particular region.”

“I see an unlimited amount of opportunity in the city of Canton,” Torres said.  “This city has a strong infrastructure that can handle large-scale economic and neighborhood redevelopment.  I'm looking forward to harnessing Canton's strengths to rebuild it into the economic powerhouse it has the potential to be once again.”

When asked about what other factors contributed to his ultimate decision to relocate to Canton, Torres said that he was impressed by Healy's commitment to racial and cultural diversity after reading about several of Healy's previous Cabinet-level appointments. 

Torres, who was born in the United States after his father immigrated to this country during the 1950's, said that the Mayor's demonstrated openness to people of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds will prove critical when the City seeks to attract large businesses from around the world who have already established firm ties with minority ethnic and cultural communities.

“We're no longer living in an age when cities like Canton can afford to lose out on opportunities because potential employers don't know whether or not their workforce will feel at home,” Torres said.  “By placing a diverse group of leaders at the top of city government, the Mayor is sending a message that the City of Canton is open for business – no matter where that business may come from.”

Healy had made international economic development a cornerstone of his overall development strategy while campaigning before last November's mayoral election.  Healy cited his background in dealing with companies in Canada, China, and Latin America when making that assertion, and argued that Canton could make large improvements in the way it seeks to attract businesses from outside the fifty states.

“We can no longer allow ourselves to be constrained in old ways of thinking that because we don't speak their language or understand their culture we shouldn't try to attract them to the area,” Healy said.  “The people of Canton are demanding quality jobs that pay a living wage, and I am ready and willing to go to the ends of the Earth to bring those jobs back to this city.”

Healy said he expects Torres to start in his new position by March 1.  Torres, who is also an elected member of the Toledo City Schools Board of Education, will step down from his post with the city as well as his elected office near the end of this month.

“While I'm sad to be leaving the city I've called home for nearly two decades, I'm also excited to have been given this great challenge,” Torres said.  “I think we're going to have a lot of fun over the next few years.”

Contact Information: Adam Herman - (330) 438-4304

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