Business

Downtown Farmers Market moving indoors

From DOWNTOWN BOWLING GREEN One of the many tell-tale signs of summer and favorite for all locals in Downtown Bowling Green is the Downtown Bowling Green Farmer’s Market. For years this annual event has brought hundreds to downtown to sample, purchase and enjoy local vendors and artisans from the area, and spend more time in our voted Best Small Town! Downtown BG is so thrilled to announce we are not done yet! On October 24th, with new winter hours of 3-6 p.m., Downtown BG will open their first Winter Market for the community! The cozy indoor space is directly attached to Calico, Sage, and Thyme & the new Tea Room along Clay and Main Street. While the weather is willing to cooperate, vendors will also be placed outside around the gorgeous iconic tree! What vendors are coming along you may ask? Can produce still be purchased this time of year? We’re happy to say YES! 10-15 market vendors will be present each week providing everything from fresh produce including; squash, pumpkins, mushrooms, microgreens, asparagus, and more! On top of that, there will be baked goods from both Bella Cuisine & Country Grains- and sweet treats and bars from 2 Sharp Cookies! River Valley Pasta will be back with a variety of difference flavors to try each week, and Viking Coffee will have fresh roasted options for all the caffeine enthusiasts! There will also be amazing artistic vendors like Bottles by Ada, providing soy candles and recycled wine bottles with succulents, stunning holiday wreaths from Clay Hill  and tie dye clothing from Magical Mystery Shop! Vendors will constantly be changing as each week goes by, so make sure to stop in an see who is new to the lineup! Riehm Produce Farm will have their CSA bags available for pick-up at our new location through the holiday as well! Great Lakes Custom Sharpening will not be sharpening tools on site, but our market location will be a drop off/pick-up for your sharpening needs each week! WIC and SNAP programs will also continue into our Winter Market season with vendors who are eligible for them. Downtown Dollars can still be purchased and used for market shopping from our market manager Sam. BGSU Dining & Training Kitchen will also play a fun role during our market. Each week a new chef will utilize local ingredients from our vendors and make a fun new free sample for market customers to try the following week! This partnership is a wonderful connection to campus for us, and we hope to see an increase in students for this new winter event! The market also recently brought on a student representative, Nicole Lembo, who will be showing students each week the perks to shopping local and fresh even with her crazy student schedule! Make sure to follow her on instagram for weekly updates at @niclem_fit. COSTCO has committed to have a fun festive corner every week at market with complimentary sweet treats and drinks like christmas cookies, hot chocolate and MORE! Huge thank you to COSTCO for partnering with us this season- make sure to stop by their table and say hello! We’d also like to give a huge thank you to State Bank for jumping on board as a featured sponsor for this market. Their very generous donation…

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BG asks county to help welcome immigrants to fill jobs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   “Help wanted” signs are going unanswered in Wood County. So local officials are looking at attracting immigrants to the region to fill those openings. Bowling Green initially wanted to put out a welcome mat to immigrants because it was the right thing to do morally. Then as city officials researched the idea, they discovered it was also the right thing to do economically. As evidenced by the number of “now hiring” signs posted in the region, Bowling Green and Wood County economic development officials have been hearing for months that the region is running low on workers. In May, Wood County economic development officials were celebrating a banner year in business expansions – creating nearly 1,000 new jobs. But the issue waiting in the wings was the low unemployment in the region, wavering between 3 and 4 percent. While that low rate is great news to employees, it is worrisome to economic development officials. “It’s a good thing. But there is going to be a time when new businesses slow down looking at Northwest Ohio,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said earlier this year to the county commissioners. On Tuesday, the county commissioners heard the same warning – this time from Bowling Green officials. “We hear the same message time and time again,” Mayor Dick Edwards said. “We need good workers.” City Council passed a resolution in 2017 welcoming immigrants and “condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents.” As the initiative was researched, it became obvious that the welcome mat could have far-reaching economic benefits. Ohio Means Jobs estimates there are 9,200 job openings within a 20-mile radius of Bowling Green. “We are looking for skilled and other kinds of workers to come to Wood County and Bowling Green,” Edwards said. While Ohio has always been looked upon favorably by companies because of the region’s work ethic – that means nothing if there aren’t people to fill jobs. Wood County Commissioner Craig LaHote said site selection teams will notice if the available workforce is too low. “We might get ruled out before they look at anything else,” he said. Communities around the region – like Toledo and Sandusky – have already adopted “welcoming” initiatives. And while the success of the region and Wood County to bring jobs here is great, it has created a critical need to attract more workers to the area, said Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green’s economic development commission. “That only makes the workforce demand more crucial,” Clark said. Clark explained the local effort is being designed to welcome immigrants and refugees. She listed possible refugees escaping the war in Syria or the unrest in Central America. “We’re not talking about bringing in illegal immigrants,” she said. The initiative would also extend the welcome mat to international students who come to Bowling Green State University. “We do not make it particularly easy for them to find a job and stay on,” Clark said. Beatriz Maya, from LaConexion and a member of the Welcome BG Task Force, said the initiative makes economic sense. “This is based upon hard demographic data,” Maya said. “There is a shortage of more workers, for a younger workforce.” Companies that can’t find workers won’t come…


Shared salute sought at new BG City Park building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   No battle lines were drawn, but there are some strong feelings about veterans retaining top billing in the new structure replacing City Park’s Veterans Memorial Building. City Council member Greg Robinette – a veteran himself – reported to council Monday evening that he had spoken with Dave Ridenour of American Legion Post 45 about the history of the existing building. The local legion had leased the building from the city for its post headquarters from 1929 to 1979, Ridenour said. Even after the headquarters moved, the city decided to continue honoring local veterans by keeping the name Veterans Memorial Building. While city officials would like to continue that tradition, they would also like to reduce the debt on the new building by looking for private sponsorship of the new structure. “I fully understand,” that desire to look for naming rights, Robinette said. The building name could be a compromise between a major donor and local veterans. “I think we can make that work.” But council member Bruce Jeffers expressed some concern that the respect for local veterans not be clouded by recognition of a private donor. He also talked about the value of a veterans display inside the new building. “It seems we might want to distinguish between those who have served in combat zones,” Jeffers said. Council member Sandy Rowland said she supports the continued recognition of local veterans in the name of the building. However, she mentioned the effort the city is making to get a return on its investment of $3.75 million in bonds for the new building. The building is expected to be used by community members for events such as weddings, memorials and other public gatherings. “I think we have to be careful in the way we outfit the interior,” Rowland said. For example, a display of weapons of war may make the building less appealing to those wanting to rent it for occasions like weddings. “I hope we don’t plan on putting a cannon in there,” Rowland said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards recognized Earlene Kilpatrick, who is retiring from her position as executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. “You’ve had a wonderful working relationship with the city,” Edwards said to Kilpatrick. During her years as director, the city saw many groundbreakings, the mayor said. “You haven’t allowed the ceremonial scissors to rest.” Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter also thanked Kilpatrick for working so closely with the city. “It really has been a pleasure to work with you,” Tretter said. “You’ve been a tremendous asset.” Kilpatrick in turn thanked city leaders for their support. “You really care. That’s what’s so special,” she said. “Keep up the great work. It’s been my pleasure to be a part of that.” Also at the meeting, council approved the purchase of 1.57 acres at 315 and 325 N. Grove St. for $500,000. The property sits just to the east of the city’s water and sewer division at 324 N. Maple St. The property, which was formerly the site of BG Block and Lumber, will secure a long-term home for the water and sewer division, and possibly provide room for future growth. The water and sewer division could use three of the buildings on the property, totaling…


BG still waiting to meet with Columbia Gas about leak

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green city leaders are still waiting for a meeting with Columbia Gas officials about explosive levels of gas leaked into the downtown Thursday evening leading to the evacuation of several businesses and apartments. City officials have concerns since the fire division was not notified until hours after the leak was noticed. By time firefighters arrived on the scene, the gas levels were at “lower explosive limits.” Gas employees working in downtown Bowling Green held a “safety shutdown” meeting today for the crews working in the downtown to discuss Thursday’s leak. Cheri Pastula, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas, said the gas crews followed proper procedures. The fire division was notified when the gas company knew the electricity needed to be shut off, she said. The fire division removed the electric meter from the buildings involved. “We have gas professionals that are experienced in emergency response and will notify first responders when necessary,” Pastula said. “All of our policies and procedures were followed appropriately and most importantly, safely.” However, city officials have not yet had a chance to express their concerns. Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified about the gas leak until at least two hours after gas odors were strong enough that some businesses shut down on the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street. Those businesses included Grounds for Thought, Lahey Appliance and Coyote Beads. When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed explosive levels of gas. “The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Fire Chief Bill Moorman said. “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off. Pretty much anything ignites natural gas.” The Bowling Green Police Division joined the fire division in evacuating the businesses and residents in the general area of the leak in the 100 block of South Main Street. The street was also closed to traffic to limit the risks. The fire division ventilated the affected buildings and stayed on the scene until about 11:20 p.m. “It was a dangerous situation. It was handled well by police and fire,” Moorman said. However, city officials do have some concerns about how the leak was handled by Columbia Gas. So city officials want to be heard. “We’ve got concerns like everybody else,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said on Friday. “We want to share the concerns of the public.” Moorman is also anxious to discuss how leaks can be handled in the future. “We need to come up with a better procedure if it ever happens again,” he said.


‘Ag-Venture’ farm tours harvest knowledge for visitors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Farming is more than a profession for Fred Vetter. “The dirt you’re standing on – my grandpa bought in 1912,” Vetter said as he looked over his Mercer Road farm north of Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon. Vetter’s farm was one of seven stops on the Wood County “Ag-Venture” self-driving farm tours on Saturday. Like others on the tour route, Vetter wanted local residents to see farms as more than just some fields along country roads. “Everybody drives down the road and they see us,” he said. But most Wood County residents know little of what it takes to farm the land. “We need to educate people,” Vetter said. “That we’re trying to be good stewards.” The “ag-venture” tours took visitors to traditional farms, like the Vetters, Moser Farms on Hull Prairie Road, and Black Swamp Ag on Portage Road. It also led visitors to more unconventional farms like Schooner Farms on Otsego Pike, and to agri-businesses like Pioneer Seed, Luckey Farmers and Hirzel Canning. This was the first time for a county-wide tour to be organized, said Julie Lause, of the Wood Soil & Water Conservation District, which was one of the sponsors. “Agriculture in Wood County is the top business and people don’t realize how extensive agriculture can be,” she said. “They don’t realize what it takes to create the products we eat.” For soybean, wheat and corn farming it takes equipment that can costs more than many homes. Vetter’s 2003 combine cost about $140,000. Nowadays, with all the tech gadgets, a combine can cost as much as $500,000. It’s standard for equipment to have self-steering GPS, and tires taller than many of those visiting the farms. Fields have to have drainage – especially on this land that was once swamp. And drones help identify problem areas of disease or pests before they spread too far. “It takes a lot of money to farm,” said Vetter, whose sons Shane and Garett, have joined him in agriculture. Even when the best seed is purchased, planted on time, and fertilized – the outcome is still in the hands of Mother Nature. Long periods of rainy or dry weather, at the wrong times, can greatly impact the harvest. Aphids can devour otherwise healthy plants. “You can work as hard as you can,” Shane Vetter said. “Mother Nature is in charge, no matter what.” And then on top of everything else, there’s politics. “The tariffs are touching us,” Fred Vetter said of his soybeans and corn crops. “I’m not saying we won’t be OK. But we’re feeling it.” Elsewhere on the “ag-venture” tours was the less traditional Schooner Farms near Weston. “We do a little different farming than they’re going to see at other farms,” Don Schooner said. Rather than being production-based, Schooner’s farm is education-based. It features pick-your-own raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. There are bees making honey, a maze of lavender, fish cleaning organic sustainable ponds, and even freshwater lobsters. The farm uses the gardening technique of hugelkultur – mound gardening. “If they learn that type of gardening, it’s worth the visit,” Schooner said. “If they learn that type of farming, they can do it at their own home.” Becky White Schooner described the farm as the “oddball” on the tour. “It think…


Gas leak downtown reached dangerously high levels

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Several businesses and apartments in downtown Bowling Green were evacuated Thursday evening after dangerously high levels of natural gas were detected in the area. Laura Wicks, of Grounds for Thought, said that she noticed the gas smell shortly before 6 p.m. The coffee shop and Coyote Beads, both on the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street, were shut to the public after that because of the gas smell. Owners of those two businesses and Lahey Appliance & TV said Columbia Gas teams were in their stores working on gas lines earlier in the day on Thursday. The natural gas company has been working in the downtown area all summer replacing old gas lines. Wicks said a Columbia Gas employee was on the scene, and told her and Gayle Walterbach of Coyote Beads that he needed to call in more help to handle the problem. However, the Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified of the gas leak until nearly two hours after the smells were noticed, when Columbia Gas called 911. “We were never notified until 8,” Fire Chief Bill Moorman said on Friday. When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed high levels of gas. “The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Moorman said. The fire chief classified the gas levels as being in the “lower explosive limits.” “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off,” Moorman said. “Pretty much anything ignites natural gas.” The Bowling Green Police Division joined the fire division in evacuating the businesses and residents in the general area of the leak in the 100 block of South Main Street. The street was also closed to traffic to limit the risks. “Fortunately, after 8 p.m. most of the businesses are closed anyway,” Moorman said. The Columbia Gas spokesperson for the Bowling Green project was not available Friday afternoon, but Moorman said the crew members on the scene Thursday evening said they were having difficulty shutting the leak, and were initially unsure if the leak was from an old or new line. The fire division ventilated the affected buildings and stayed on the scene until about 11:20 p.m. “It was a dangerous situation. It was handled well by police and fire,” Moorman said. However, city officials do have some concerns about how the leak was handled by Columbia Gas. Those issues will be raised on Monday or Tuesday, when city leaders plan to meet with Columbia Gas representatives. “We’ve got concerns like everybody else,” said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. “We want to share the concerns of the public.” Moorman is also anxious to discuss how a leak can be handled in the future. “We need to come up with a better procedure if it ever happens again,” he said. The fire division has always encouraged the public to report suspected gas leaks. “What we always recommend is if anyone smells anything, call 911,” Moorman said. “Safety is our primary concern. We prefer to err on the side of safety.” Cheri Pastula, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas, responded Friday evening and said the fire division was notified when the gas company knew…


Mary Hinkelman named new director of BG Chamber

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mary Hinkelman – who has made Bowling Green her business – will soon take on a broader workload. She is going from being a cheerleader and advocate for downtown businesses to meeting the needs of 450 businesses in the entire Bowling Green community. Hinkelman has been named the new executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, a position held by Earlene Kilpatrick for the last decade. She relishes the challenge. “You never tell me that I can’t do something,” Hinkelman said with a smile. The common denominator with her old job and new position is the focus on local businesses. “Doing things with the businesses is the favorite part of my job,” she said. Hinkelman admits she won’t miss the 6 a.m. phone calls from the downtown groundskeepers, or cleaning the streets on some Saturday mornings. But she is looking forward to continuing working side-by-side with businesses. As Downtown BG director, she represented about 175 businesses in the downtown area – everything from retail and restaurants, to law offices, medical services, and non-profits. As chamber director, Hinkelman will be spreading her skills to the entire business community. She knows the job will be a challenge. “I know that the way people do business is very different than 10 or 15 years ago,” she said. “Are we still meeting the needs of the chamber?” Hinkelman would like to focus on the creation of a business incubator space in the city to help entrepreneurs get started. “This is still in its infancy,” she said. “It would be a place for someone to launch a product and see what the interest would be.” The chamber of commerce announced Hinkelman’s hiring Friday morning. She was one of 65 applicants for the position. “It was very humbling,” she said. Hinkelman is proud of her two-plus years as downtown director. “I saw there was a difference being made,” she said. During her tenure, the downtown initiated a Chocolate Crawl. “That was wonderful,” she said. The Downtown Farmers Market has expanded and is expected to have more than 100 vendors next year. A winter market is being started, which is “super exciting.” The Art Walk was revived with the addition of the “one-bite competition.” “The numbers were dwindling, but people love food,” she said. And the summer Firefly Nights were so successful the event is continuing into the fall. The downtown is also working with some BGSU architecture students on making the “dog-leg alley” by Finders, on North Main Street, a usable space. With the addition of some outdoor seating, Hinkelman hopes to see an area for pop-up artists. Hinkelman believes the new creative ideas for the downtown are encouraging others to get involved. “When you see a good thing, everybody wants to get in on it,” she said. In her new role as chamber director, Hinkelman plans to continue attending City Council meetings. “I’m excited. I’ll still be working closely with the city. I love that process,” she said. And she sees opportunities to build on the chamber’s success. “It’s an amazing community. There is always something going on,” Hinkelman said. “We are still continuing to grow. There’s a lot of investment in the community. This is a great place to live.” Hinkelman takes over her…