2021 State of the Region


Reimagining and Rebuilding Resilient Economies and Communities in Northwest Ohio

Date: Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Time: 8:30 a.m. to noon
Location: virtual event

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The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively impacted communities and the lives of residents of Northwest Ohio in many ways. Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, new economic trends such as the increase in remote work and growing sectors such as logistics and distribution provide opportunities to increase the economic resiliency and quality of life of residents of the region. The 2021 State of the Region will explore the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Northwest Ohio, emerging trends and economic opportunities in both urban and rural communities, and strategies to take advantage of these trends while building resiliency from future disruptions. 


8:30 a.m.: Welcome and Opening Remarks, Rodney K. Rogers, Ph.D., President, Bowling Green State University 

8:35 a.m.: Welcome and Opening Remarks, Representative Jon Cross (OH-83), Ohio House of Representatives 

8:45 a.m.: The State of the Recovery: Rick Kaglic, Vice President and Senior Regional Officer at the Cincinnati Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland 

9:15 a.m.: The State of the Region Address: Russell W. Mills, Ph.D., Senior Director, Center for Regional Development

9:45 a.m.: Q&A Session

10:00 a.m.: Keynote Address: Paul Hill, Extension Professor and Director of the Rural Online Initiative, Utah State University

10:45 a.m.: Keynote Q&A

11:00 a.m.: Breakout Sessions on Recovery/Resiliency Topics

Advancing Rural Placemaking Efforts in Northwest Ohio
Jason Duff, Founder/CEO, Small Nation
Moderator: Deminique Heiks, Economic Development Program Coordinator, Center for Regional Development

Positioning Toledo for Continued Economic Growth and Revitalization
Kate Sommerfeld, President, Social Determinants of Health, ProMedica
Kendra Smith, Vice President, Community Health at Bon Secours Mercy Health
Paul Toth, President, ConnecToledo
Moderator: Nichole Fifer, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Center for Regional Development

Federal Update and Overview of Programs for Economic Recovery
Ellen Heinz, Economic Development Representative-Ohio, Economic Development Administration
Jennifer Brown, Community Program Specialist, USDA Rural Development
Joshua Smith, Community Program Specialist, USDA Rural Development
Moderator: Russell Mills, Ph.D., Senior Director, Center for Regional Development

11:45 a.m.: Closing Remarks

12:00 p.m.: Adjournment

Speaker Bios

Rep Jon CrossRepublican State Representative Jon Cross is serving his second term in the Ohio House of Representatives, representing northwest Ohio’s 83rd District, which includes Hancock, Hardin and (portion of) Logan counties.  

In the 134th General Assembly, Speaker Cupp has appointed Representative Cross as Chairman of the House Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education, and to serve on the committees of Finance, Economic & Workforce Development, Higher Education & Career Readiness and Insurance.

Representative Cross is a proud father and husband, a passionate public servant and a principled conservative championing legislation that protects our rights and freedoms, as well as keeping Ohio safer, stronger and open for business.

His leadership and strong work ethic have had a positive impact on the Ohio General Assembly and the communities and constituents he represents.

This was demonstrated during his first term, as Representative Cross had five bills signed into law by the Governor. He passed significant legislation that created workforce training programs, removed financial barriers for adoptions, improved scope of practice for nurse anesthetists, allowed school districts to set hiring criteria for substitute teachers during the COVID pandemic, and reformed workplace discrimination laws to strengthen Ohio’s business and legal climate.

Prior to being elected, Representative Cross served as the chief executive officer and economic development director for the Hardin County Chamber & Business Alliance. His career pathway has allowed him to obtain a vast amount of public and private sector work experiences throughout the United States in business, government, non-profit, real estate development and economic and workforce development.

Cross graduated from Kenton High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. He and his wife Christina Cross are loving parents of their two young boys Carson and Connor. They reside in Kenton.

Rick KaglicRick Kaglic is Vice President and Senior Regional Officer at the Cincinnati Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, a role he took on in 2018. In this position, Rick oversees management of the branch, and is responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with key business and community leaders in Southern Ohio and Western Kentucky, analyzing regional economic conditions and developments in the region, and educating the region's diverse constituents on the role of the Federal Reserve and its District Banks.

Prior to joining the Cleveland Fed, Rick was the Senior Regional Economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond responsible for analyzing regional economic conditions and developments in the Carolinas. Mr. Kaglic also served as a Senior Economist for Eaton Corporation, a diversified manufacturing firm headquartered in Cleveland, OH; as Chief Economist for the Washington State Employment Security Department; and spent eleven years as Senior Business Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Rick has served in leadership roles in the Chicago and Cleveland Associations for Business Economics, and is on the board of trustees for “Cincinnati Works.” Moreover, he has provided economic analysis for Governor’s Economic Advisory Councils in four states, including Ohio.

He completed both his undergraduate and graduate work at Youngstown State University with specializations in regional and urban economics.


Paul Hill is an Extension Professor for Utah State University where he designs and leads economic development programs through the Rural Online Initiative that he founded in 2018. He is a past recipient of the Utah Governor’s Medal for Science Technology as well as 25 other state, regional, and national awards for his innovative programs, impacts, research, and publications.

Panelist Bios

Jason DuffJason Duff is the Founder of Small Nation which encompasses a group of companies, leaders and investors who develop places, spaces and dreams for small towns and small-town entrepreneurs across the county.  Jason and his team at Small Nation have completely revitalized the town of Bellefontaine, Ohio.  In 7 short years, they have turned a dying town and helped make it a Best-in-State destination. 

Jason and his team can be credited with renovating more than 30 historic buildings, started and founded 14 new businesses that have hired more than 190 employees, 18 new loft apartments and they continue to lead and inspire in making towns and communities strong.  

Jason serves on Small Business Advisory Council for US Chamber, is a regular contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur & Inc Magazine, has been recognized by the White House as Top100 Entrepreneurs in 2013 and 2015, and was recently named Heritage Ohio’s 2019 Young Preservationist of the Year.   

Kate SommerfeldKate Sommerfeld is the president of the Social Determinants of Health Institute for ProMedica, a mission-driven, not-for-profit, health care system based in Toledo, Ohio. ProMedica is the 15th largest hospital system in the country, serving communities in 28 states.

Kate is responsible for shaping and leading ProMedica’s work in the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), including clinical integration, medical education and training, and strategic community initiatives. Under Kate’s leadership, the work of the SDOH Institute has grown in ways that have impacted thousands of lives in ProMedica’s service area, while also positioning ProMedica as a clear industry-leader in SDOH.

From a clinical integration perspective, ProMedica and its payor arm, Paramount, are screening patients for 10 social determinants and connecting them to interventions like Food Clinics or Community Health Workers. Results are already beginning to show that connecting individuals to SDOH interventions can improve health outcomes and decrease cost and utilization.

ProMedica has also put a big stake in the ground around the $50 million place-based Ebeid Neighborhood Promise, an initiative serving local residents through financial coaching, job training, and access to a (ProMedica-run nonprofit) grocery store in an identified food desert. Even more broadly, ProMedica is leading in its commitment to Anchor Strategies – that is, using its resources to serve as an anchor and catalyst in the community. Under Kate’s leadership, ProMedica launched the Health Impact Fund with LISC in 2018, a $25M loan pool to drive economic development in low-income neighborhoods. The Institute is also driving housing development, engaging in local and inclusive hiring and purchasing, and catalyzing new growth for downtown Toledo.

Kate and the SDOH Institute is increasingly being recognized nationally for their innovative work. In 2018, ProMedica’s Food as Medicine intervention was featured in the Wall Street Journal. In 2019, ProMedica won the Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service. And in June of 2020 it was announced that ProMedica was the recipient of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary's Opportunity & Empowerment Award. ProMedica also leads among its peers, cofounding the Root Cause Coalition as well as the Healthcare Anchor Network.

Prior to joining ProMedica, Kate worked for various community-based and nonprofit organizations including in the United Way system leading both rural and urban change. Kate has Bachelors of Arts degrees in political science and child psychology from Purdue University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Bowling Green State University.

Kendra SmithKendra Smith serves as Vice President, Community Health with Bon Secours Mercy Health (BSMH). As an experienced thought and practice leader in community development, affordable housing development, urban planning, and social determinants of health, she provides direction and oversight on collaborative community health priorities and efforts that address social determinants of health and health inequities in BSMH Ohio and Kentucky markets.

Previously, Smith has served in executive and leadership roles with ProMedica, Preferred Properties, Inc. and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning leading community-based initiatives focused on creating affordable and accessible housing, community engagement, land use and housing policy, community investment and partnership development.

A Cleveland native, Smith is currently completing a Master of Public Health degree from Kent State University and holds a master’s degree in urban studies with a focus on neighborhood and community development from Cleveland State University and additional degrees and certifications from Ohio University, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and La Universidad Pública de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.

Kendra enjoys being active in the community. In 2017, she was a recipient of Toledo’s 20 Under 40 Leadership Award. She serves on the board of the Rotary Club of Toledo, holds a seat on the Federal Reserve Board Community Action Council, and is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Paul TothPaul L. Toth Jr. is President of PT Development Consulting and currently serves as President of ConnecToledo, Toledo’s Downtown Development Corporation. ConnecToledo is a business community led effort focused on all aspects of redevelopment and business expansion in the downtown core of Toledo.

Prior to starting PT Development Consulting and taking the position with ConnecToledo in November 2019, Paul was President and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority overseeing all activities of the organization include oversight, management and development of the Port of Toledo, two airports, train/bus station, downtown parking operations, management and development of 3 office buildings, and operation development of several million square feet of industrial buildings, 400+ acres of community brownfield redevelopment, and management of the Port Authority’s Innovative Financing Programs which include the Northwest Ohio Bond Fund as well as regional loan programs for the State of Ohio and Small Business Administration.

His 32+ year professional career has been focused on economic development and more specifically development of public/private and public/public partnerships through a variety of operation and development efforts. Paul specializes in development of project finance and innovative approaches to solving challenging development opportunities with a win-win outcome.

Paul earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toledo and was a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Ohio for more than 20 years. He is also a Graduate of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School of Business earning a Masters in Business Administration, specializing in finance. 

Ellen HeinzEllen Heinz has spent her career in both the private and public sectors in executive leadership roles in economic and community development, workforce development and corporate development. Ms. Heinz joined the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in November 2020, as Economic Development Representative for Ohio.

Prior to her role with the EDA, Ms. Heinz worked as the Vice President of Corporate Development for a wastewater treatment manufacturing company, Safety Services Director for the City of Norwalk, Vice President of Human Resources for a baking company with three locations, and head of HR for US Operations for a German automotive manufacturer, serving also on the launch team for a new manufacturing site in Ohio.

Ellen’s Workforce Development experience ranges from being the Director of Workforce Development at North Central State College to teaching at the secondary and post-secondary education levels.

Ms. Heinz earned a Master of Education degree from Ashland University and a BA from Michigan State University (MSU). Ellen is also experienced in International Relations and worked in Japan. She has her OhioCED and has been involved with the Ohio Economic Development Association for many years. 

Ellen resides in Norwalk, Ohio with her eleven-year old daughter, Charlotte, and golden doodle, Flynn.

Jen BrownJennifer Brown is a Community Program Specialist with USDA, Rural Development in the Columbus State Office. Jennifer has been with Rural Development for over 20 years, she has vast knowledge and experience with numerous programs available through Rural Development such as the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee, Rural Energy for America Program and most recently Community Programs; where she assists and supports with administering of loan and grant programs for rural communities.

Josh SmithJosh Smith has been with Ohio Rural Development since January 2017 beginning as a Business and Industry Pathways Intern before transitioning to a full time position with the Community Programs section in May 2019 upon graduation. An Alumni of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, he currently works as the State Loan Technician where duties include engaging in program outreach, processing Community Facility and Water & Environmental Program applications, and assists in environmental and civil rights compliance reviews.

Updated: 11/10/2022 12:23PM