Langford to lead economic development


The future of Delaware’s economic development is under new direction as Nic Langford has been tabbed to replace Sean Hughes, who left in December to take the same position in Powell.

Langford, a Topeka, Kansas native, most recently directed economic development in Suffolk, Virginia, and also served as the redevelopment director in Clarksville, Indiana. In Delaware, Langford will be responsible for executing the city’s strategic business plan, developing relationships with local, regional, national, and international businesses, and assisting companies interested in relocating to Delaware or expanding in the city.

“Nic is a great addition to our team and the Delaware business community,” City Manager Tom Homan said. “He has developed small businesses and attracted large employers while working with different levels of government. I am confident Nic will be a tremendous asset to our community and take Delaware to the next level.”

Langford told The Gazette he longed to return to the Midwest and be around “Midwest folks.” Speaking specifically on the opportunity in Delaware, Langford said he was drawn to the city’s “cool” and “unique” downtown.

“You have the cool downtown, which the city has done a tremendous job on in the past 15-20 years of recruiting some really good businesses and filling vacant or underutilized storefronts,” he said. “Now, Delaware has what I would say is the quintessential cool, small-city downtown. It’s able to support a variety of restaurants and boutique retail and all kinds of little shops and offices. It’s beautiful and really fun to walk around. It’s unique in that it attaches directly to Ohio Wesleyan’s beautiful campus, and they have some exciting things going on as well. It’s just a cool opportunity for me, and it’s good to be back and working on deals and being useful and trying to put together some nice development packages and attract some new businesses.”

In addition to the draw of Delaware’s downtown, Langford said he was “very pleased with the camaraderie and general knowledge and skillsets” of the various departments that make up the city’s operation.

While he’s still settling into the role, Langford is already working to update Delaware’s economic development master plan. “Anytime you’re doing one of these large updates or rewrites of a plan, and you’re new to an area, you kind of need to get the feel and the flavor of the place before really making any kinds of large steps of recommendations,” he said.

In general, Langford believes one of his focuses needs to be attracting more hotels to the area to encourage more people to visit Delaware’s downtown events such as First Fridays. “We deserve a nice, boutique, four-star hotel with a nice restaurant and bar,” he said.

Langford added, “We have a pretty good industry mix. We have a good commercial base, a good industrial base, and a solid restaurant base. Overall, there’s a good mix, so it’s really about finding opportunities we can service with our existing utilities that really are going to provide not only aesthetic value but economic value to the city as well. And then trying to be mindful of growth patterns and just trying to follow the tenets of urban planning and working at length with the Planning Department to make sure that economic development planning is on the same page and we’re working to improve the city in incremental but positive steps.”

The timing of Langford’s arrival in Delaware coincides with the city’s struggles to identify funding for infrastructure repairs. Last month, in a discussion about alternatives if an income tax increase is not be supported by the community, hypothetical cuts were considered that included eliminating the $75,000 transfer to the economic development reserve. The discussion also included the role economic development can play in helping the city generate the revenue necessary to maintain roads.

Langford said he is aware of the challenges facing the city but believes he is up to the task of doing his job well under the circumstances.

“Like any municipality, especially ones that go through such immense growth, there’s always going to be some financial pains here and there … I think I am the right candidate for this job,” Langford said. “I’m happy they chose me because I do have a background in doing financial performance analysis. I do have a background in working with projects that give tax credits, and I know how to structure tax credits. I have won billions of dollars in grants from both state and federal entities. Usually, they’re going towards funding projects that are already planned in the capital improvement plan.

“It’s not great to not have a plentiful cash flow, but most municipalities don’t, and you have to work within those confines and find solutions. I view it more as an opportunity to make myself useful and piece together and flesh out how to get these projects done and help deliver good quality of life and give projects to the citizens of Delaware. I’m excited for it, actually.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on X @DillonDavis56.

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