Business

BG and Menard’s strike compromise on sign variances

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green officials have been told the city needs to tidy up its “sign clutter.” Tuesday evening, the city took a step to do just that when Menard’s requested a sign that would far exceed the city’s standards. That meant the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals might have had to reject a variance request from Menard’s – which hadn’t yet purchased the 26 acres to build on along the 1200 block of South Main Street, south of Walmart and across Main Street from Home Depot. But before the zoning board ruled Wednesday evening, the company withdrew its request for the massive sign. The pylon sign would have been 15 feet taller than the allowed maximum height of 25 feet, and 110 square feet larger than the 90 square feet maximum. “You could see it from Cincinnati, I think,” said Judy Ennis, head of the zoning board of appeals. The withdrawal of the request saved the board from a tough decision, Ennis said. “They said they wanted to be a good neighbor,” she said Menard’s officials. But while Menard’s pulled its variance request for the large pylon sign, the company stuck with its request for two other sign variances. One was for a wall sign which would be 306 square feet larger than the 90 square feet maximum size allowed. The other was for a total of 12 signs (one pylon sign and 11 wall signs), which would exceed the maximum of three signs allowed for a business. The 12 signs would also exceed the allowable 270 total square footage in signage by 552 square feet. But because of the massive size of the store and the distance it will sit back from the road, the zoning board of appeals granted both of those variance requests. “This store is going to be bigger than most that they have,” Ennis said. And most of the signs will be directional. Menard’s officials told the board Wednesday evening that they want to be ready to open in the spring of 2020. Ennis said she was glad that the store officials seemed to understand the city’s desire to reduce sign clutter and improve aesthetics. It would have been a difficult decision for the board to reject the company’s request – especially since the store had not yet taken the step to purchase the property. City Planning Director Heather…

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Revolving loan fund helps local businesses in a pinch

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For 31 years, Bowling Green has been helping businesses in a pinch for financing. The Revolving Loan Fund recently surpassed the $5 million mark in total loans made since the fund’s inception in 1987. The fund was established as a means of offering “gap finance assistance” for those businesses desiring to start up or expand. In exchange for the loan, the businesses must not only pay back the funding, but they must also create employment for people at lower income levels within Bowling Green’s corporation limits. “It’s very helpful to a lot of businesses,” said Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green Economic Development. Traditional bank loans aren’t always fast enough for the needs of local businesses. “We’re the place people can come to get working capital,” Clark said. “We’re much faster.” “And we’re willing to take a second position,” behind existing debt – which many banks will not do, she said. In the fund’s first year, three loans were issued totaling $44,481. Within the fund’s first decade, loans were issued to several businesses still operating today, like Aardvark Screen Printing & Embroidery, Pagliai’s Pizza, SamB’s and the Bowling Green Country Club Pro Shop. Since its inception, the fund has provided a total of $5,047,314 in loans to 168 local businesses. “We just happened to see there was a need,” Clark said. “There are times that we get more demands than we have money for,” she said. Those applicants are then asked to wait for the next round of funding. And some requests for funding are rejected. “We don’t turn a lot away,” Clark said. “But if I see right away that they have no experience and no collateral,” then they may not make the cut. The revolving loan fund five-member board is sensitive to the fact that it is using taxpayer money and makes conservative decisions. “We are very cautious. They really are diligent – that this person will pay us back,” Clark said. During the most recent Community Development Block Grant funding year, a total of $349,000 in loans was made to 11 local businesses. Over the years, the lowest loan amount has been $5,000; with $150,000 being the highest to date. Some of the more recent loans have been granted for the Sleek Academy, J.P. Dough, Dairy Queen and Ziggy’s. Some loans help businesses expand, fix broken machinery, or hire…


BG residents urged to shop locally at small businesses for holidays

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials suggested local resident go big and shop small. With holiday shopping season officially starting on Friday, Bowling Green officials urged local residents to spend some money with local small businesses. Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards and new Downtown BG Director Tony Vetter took to the podium at the City Council meeting Monday evening to promote “Small Business Saturday” which follows this week’s “Black Friday.” The “Small Business Saturday” moniker is an annual reminder of the need to support small businesses, Edwards said. The annual shopping promotion started in 2010 in response to the recession. It was intended to help small businesses recover, Vetter said. In the U.S., 28.8 million small businesses account for 99 percent of businesses, employing more than 48 percent of American workers, the mayor said. The Saturday after Thanksgiving has become a very important day in the life of many small retailers. “It is a break even day for a lot of small businesses,” Edwards said. Downtown Bowling Green retailers are counting on local residents spending some of their holiday shopping money here. “Downtown Bowling Green is so important to our economy,” the mayor said. And Vetter noted that “Small Business Saturday” is not just about downtown and not just about this weekend. “Shop small is not just this weekend. It’s all year round,” Vetter said. Also at Monday’s meeting, City Council approved a solar project easement and lease agreement with the Wood County Commissioners and Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The city is researching the viability of building a community solar field on property owned by those two entities on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, just east of Interstate 75. Council also heard from a Bowling Green State University graduate student in public administration, who has been researching the financial history of the city in the 1970s when the city budget was very stretched. He mentioned that he has been unable to access some records, and urged council to preserve such records for safekeeping. Council President Mike Aspacher assured the student that the city complies with all record retention rules, but said council will take the request under advisement. Council members Bruce Jeffers asked the student to send council a copy of his research, and Bill Herald asked him to report back to council on his research. In other business at…


Menards files with city for site on South Main Street

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Menards has filed paperwork with the City of Bowling Green Planning Department. The company is looking at building a store on the south end of the city – south of Walmart and across the road from Home Depot. The paperwork filed with the planning office is seeking variances from three city sign regulations, according to Heather Sayler, planning director for the city. The company, which specializes in home improvement products, has not yet applied for a zoning permit to build on the property, Sayler said. “I think they want to check off the boxes,” with getting signage variances being one of those boxes, she said. Sayler said her understanding is that the company wants to start working on the new site early in 2019 if possible. According to the paperwork filed with the city, Menards would like a sign along South Main Street that exceeds the city’s maximum height of 25 feet. Store officials will be asking for a variance allowing a 40-foot tall sign. Store officials have also asked for a variance to the city ordinance that allows up to three signs on the exterior of the building. The Zoning Board of Appeals will review the store’s requests during its meeting on Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. The application lists the owner of the property as B.G.V.H. Co., represented by Anthoni Visconsi II. Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green Community Development Foundation, said last month that Menards had been scouting out possible locations in the city. “They have been looking at the community for eight months or so,” Clark said. Initially, the company was looking at a site on East Wooster Street near the Holiday Inn Express, she said. Store officials then shifted to the location on South Main Street. “We plan to build a new store in Bowling Green, OH at some point in the near future,” Jeff Abbott, Menards spokesperson stated in an email last month. “We are still in the planning phase and have not yet finalized when we might start construction.”


Tony Vetter jumps right into leading Downtown BG

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Tony Vetter hit the ground running as executive director of Downtown Bowling Green. He had no choice. This, he said, is the busiest time of the year. He has to find volunteers to help spruce up the downtown for the holidays. Then there’s the holiday tree lighting, collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce on the holiday parade, and after that the kickoff to Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24. Vetter started in his new position, taking over from Mary Hinkelman, on Oct. 29. Hinkelman switched offices in the Four Corners Center to become director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. “I’m just getting up to speed.” Though Vetter has recently started, he’s familiar with the various entities that call the Four Corners Center home. As director of Destination Toledo he worked closely with Wendy Chambers who heads up the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau. Though Vetter has been working in Toledo,  he’s lived in Bowling Green for the past 24 years with his wife, Cheryl, co-owner of Hagemeyer Fine Photography. Vetter said he’s always done his shopping in Bowling Green and has taken part in the various events, including the Black Swamp Arts Festival, that fill up the city’s calendar. The 26-year-old festival like the newly hatched Firefly Nights are staged by independent groups. They add to the luster of downtown, along with the lineup of events that Downtown Bowling Green presents, including Art Walk and Winterfest Chillabration.  “It’s a collaborative effort,” Vetter said. “It’s a very vibrant community. Some other cities that would give their eye teeth for what Bowling Green has.” A healthy downtown isn’t just important for the merchants and downtown businesses, but for the health of the community as a whole. A company trying to recruit new employees does not want have them see a downtown full of empty or boarded up store fronts. Downtown Bowling Green works to keep that from happening. The Special Improvement District is funded by a tax imposed on property owners. Vetter was attracted to the job in part because of the passion of the members of the Downtown BG Board. “They want what’s best for this city. That’s here their hearts are. Same with the mayor. They’re all on the same page.They want to make Bowling Green a better place.” Greg Halamay, who chairs the Downtown Bowing Green board, said that Vetter…


BGSU student optimizing his business acumen to earn millions for clients

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Ask Donovan J. Greening to describe search-engine optimization, better known as SEO, and his eyes will light up and his explanation speeds faster than his Porsche Cayenne. When he sees your eyes glaze over in confusion, he’ll hit the brakes, slow it down and give you enough examples until you both are sharing the same road. “Did that answer your question?” He doesn’t demean; he’s sincere in wanting to share his mastery of digital marketing and what it’s done for him, what it can do for companies behind the scenes and what he hopes it can do for Bowling Green State University. Then he laughs and says, “I’m the nerdiest person ever. I’m a super geek!” Greening, 20, is an entrepreneur, consultant and full-time college student. He is the founder of Greening Corporation United, a full-service digital marketing agency he started at the age of 15 that focuses on law firm digital marketing. In 2017, he helped generate several million dollars in new cases and revenue for his clients and law firms while also helping multiple victims of mesothelioma and lung cancer find justice. A junior, he is majoring in management of information systems in the Bowling Green State University College of Business. He grew up in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and attended Brother Rice High School. While in high school, he founded two online companies. “I taught myself how to make a website based on my YouTube channel, XVSound, when I was 15,” Greening said. “I would take music artists that weren’t that cool and find cool movie clips and chop them up and make footage to kind of go along with the song, almost like mood music. That channel started to blow up and to date that channel has 3.9 million views in total and has more than 10,000 subscribers.” That positive experience got him thinking: How could he make this into a brand? The result was XVTech, which focused on web design and social media marketing. Greening quickly turned around three local clients, a juice shop, Chris Huff from P80Fitness Studio, and DJ BJ 3525 from Hot 107.5. His next client was a hydro light factory in Warren, Michigan, which sells hydroponic lighting for large indoor agricultural facilities. “I developed for them a brand-new website and an e-commerce system,” Greening said. “I also helped them map out a shipping logistics system to make their…


Tony Vetter named new director of Downtown Bowling Green

From DOWNTOWN BOWLING GREEN Tony Vetter has been selected as the new Director of Downtown Bowling Green and The Downtown Foundation. He started on October 29, 2018. Downtown Bowling Green is a Special Improvement District within the downtown area. It serves the downtown as a liaison with government offices, other merchants and the media. Downtown BG strives to enhance and stabilize the economic vitality of the Central Business District through long-term improvement projects and ongoing promotional activities that benefit the community and surrounding area. Downtown Bowling Green hosts the Art Walk, Classics on Main Car Show, Farmers Market, the new Winter Market, Community Tree Lightning, Downtown Beautification, Holiday Decorations, and Holly Days along with sponsoring Firefly Nights, Fall Festival and Shop Small Business Saturday. It also supports other events promoted by the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, BG Convention & Visitors Bureau, Bowling Green Economic Development (all located in the Four Corners Building) and the city of Bowling Green.  Volunteers for these events shows the strong support the community provides to Downtown Bowling Green. Working with Bowling Green State University and providing internship opportunities has benefited both organizations. Downtown Bowling Green promotes Downtown Dollars which are gift certificates that can be used just like cash in downtown businesses. It also furnishes enhanced maintenance for the downtown business district.   “Mary Hinkelman, new Executive Director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, has done an excellent job as Director of Downtown Bowling Green and I wish to continue that same level of service along with implementing new ways to serve downtown and the community”, said Tony Vetter. Tony has over 27 years in leadership, sales and marketing experience. Recently he was Director of Sales and Interim President for the Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau promoting our region to state, regional, national and international groups. Tony earned the Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) designation in 2016, the only integrated executive program specifically designed for the destination marketing industry. The focus of the program is on vision, leadership, productivity and the implementation of business strategies. “Tony Vetter, as CDME graduate, has been awarded the profession’s highest educational standing.” said Richard Nachazel, past President and CEO of Destination Toledo. Tony graduated from Bowling Green State University with a degree in Journalism and Public Relations and started his own business to pay his way through college. He and his wife, Cheryl ,have lived in Bowling…