Business

Efforts to simplify building heights rule get complicated

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Efforts to simplify the city’s building height limits became quite complicated Wednesday evening. With a split vote, Bowling Green Planning Commission took action to simplify the city’s building height requirements. The change maintains the maximum height limitations in all zoning categories – but eliminates the maximum story limitations. The change is intended to alleviate some confusion caused by the city’s current zoning rules which pose limits on the number of stories and the height of buildings, explained Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler. But the effort was met by opposition from some residents who felt more protected by the dual rule. The planning commission also faced criticism from a city resident who found information on the proposed zoning change inaccessible to the public. Jeanne Langendorfer said she was interested in the ordinance change, so tried to find information about it on the city’s website. Langendorfer said the website did not show the proposed amendment and did not list the members of the planning commission. She was able to locate meeting minutes from the commission – however, the most recent minutes posted were from 2014. “I would hope that could be addressed,” she said. “It’s not very helpful as a citizen to see something of interest, but not be able to get any information about it.” The building heights issue came up earlier this year when a Hilton hotel was proposed at the site of the former Victory Inn at 1630 E. Wooster St. The proposed hotel was 65 feet tall, which is five feet taller than allowed, and five stories high, which is one story higher than allowed in B-2 general commercial zoning. The proposed change in the zoning language would allow a hotel to have five floors, as long as the height of the building did not exceed 60 feet. The modified zoning language could prevent such confusion in the future, Sayler said. Sayler stressed that the change would maintain the current building heights and be easier to enforce. The cities of Perrysburg and Findlay took…


Council doesn’t want to be kept in dark on solar project

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials don’t want to darken the bright future of massive solar field being built on city property, but Council members demanded answers Monday evening to some troubling questions on the project. Concerns have been raised about the percentage of Ohio workers used on the site and the fact that they are not being paid prevailing wages. Council President Mike Aspacher said he received an email from an AMP official in early September saying that prevailing wages would be paid to workers on the project. However, since then it has been reported that is not the case. “There’s some conflicting information,” Aspacher said. Council member Bruce Jeffers also expressed his frustration. “I assumed throughout this project that people would be paid prevailing wage.” The issue is complicated by the fact that Bowling Green owns the property for the solar field at the corner of Carter and Newton roads, northeast of the city. But the solar field is an AMP project, which has contracted with NextEra, which has contracted with Blattner Energy. Bowling Green Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said the city is hosting the solar field and buying energy from it, but not directly connected to the construction. “We’re somewhat removed from the construction,” he said. Neither the agreement with AMP nor the tax abatement granted to NextEra require the prevailing wages be paid or that union labor be used. If the project were the city’s, that would be different, O’Connell said. “We do have a prevailing wage requirement.” But in this case, the city has no control over the wages paid on the project. But Aspacher was not satisfied. “The fact of the matter is it’s being built on Bowling Green property. So I think it’s a Bowling Green project.” The other issue is the workforce on the project. NextEra was granted a tax abatement by the county commissioners on the project on the condition that 80 percent of the labor used on the site would be from Ohio. O’Connell said NextEra actually bumped up that…


Clinton vows to stay true to blue collar Americans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Hillary Clinton made her pitch to the blue collar crowd in Toledo Monday – to people who pay their taxes and expect their elected officials to do the same. Clinton hit hard on the latest news that her opponent Donald Trump has likely not paid federal taxes for nearly two decades. She looked at her supporters gathered in the Amtrak station in downtown Toledo, and told them she understands them. “We believe in honest pay for honest work,” she said, mentioning her dad who printed drapery for a living. “He believed in hard work. He passed that on to me.” Those in the crowd appreciated her steady dedication to family and worker causes. Jennifer Rogers, of Toledo, said she likes how Clinton relies on her experience and her heart. “I think Hillary knows more about the world situation than any president we’ve ever had. I think the Republican party has done a real witch hunt and she’s stood her ground.” Larry Robinson, of Bowling Green, admitted he was not a huge Hillary fan. “I’m against Donald Trump,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t trust him to stick to his word.” So Clinton will likely win with Robinson by default. “When it comes time to vote, I’ll probably pull the lever for Hillary,” he said. Andrew Heller, of Toledo, had no doubts. “I think she’s obviously the only candidate qualified for the job.” He then looked at his two young daughters to explain another reason why he wouldn’t support Trump. “It’s despicable how he talks about women.” One speaker suggested it would be fitting for the Glass City to help Clinton shatter the “glass ceiling.” U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, joined in heaping praise onto Clinton. “No matter what gets thrown her way, she keeps chugging along,” Kaptur said. “She gets things done.” One of those things was very meaningful to Toledo, when Clinton voted to save the auto industry. Clinton talked about those tough times, when people were losing their jobs, their homes, their savings. “In 2009, you…


Dancing with the Stars to benefit Safe Communities

From BOWLING GREEN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE On Saturday, Oct. 22, ACT*BG will host Dancing with the BG Stars, with some of the proceeds benefiting Safe Communities of Wood County. Tickets are $40 per person and may be purchased at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, Four Corners Center 130 S. Main Street, by stopping in or calling at (419) 353-7945. There will be concession food and non-alcoholic drinks and a cash bar at the event. The event will feature local BG Community members as our BG Stars. Participants are: Brian Roush and Krista Evans; Eric and Sarah Klotz; Kevin McGill and Carol Lenox; Evan Slates and Stephanie Bell; Matt and Alyssa Karaffa; Mark and Michelle Remeis; and Anthony Stacey. Julie’s Dance Studio is providing professional guidance, practice space and expertise. This night of entertainment will be hosted by BG Chamber investor Nazareth Hall, who is generously donating the use of their facility for this benefit. For more information on this event, contact Marissa Muniz (marissamuniz@bgchamber.net) or checkout the flyer on the Chamber Facebook page. All proceeds from this event will benefit ACT BG & Safe Communities of Wood County. ACT*BG (which stands for Active – Community – Teamwork) is a highly active project team of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. ACT*BG has a mission to attract and retain professionals in the Bowling Green. Their efforts focus on connecting active professionals to each other and to the community through social, civic, charitable, educational, and professional development events.


Piano concert, job coaching all on tap at public library

From WOOD COUNTY DISTRICT PUBLIC LIBRARY The library’s popular “Job Coach,” HR expert Frank Day, will be available Wednesday, October 5 starting at 9:30 am to provide advice on polishing your resume, exploring online job sites, or filling out an online application. Please call ahead, 419-352-5050,  to make an appointment for your half-hour session with Mr. Day. “Tablet and Smartphone Classes,” presented in partnership with the Wood County Committee on Aging and the BGSU School of Media and Communications, will be held Tuesday, October 4 and 11 at 6:15 pm in the 2nd Floor Meeting Room. These classes are structured to suit your needs and to help you to get the most from your phone or mobile device. Registration is required. For details and to register call the Senior Center at 419-353-5661. A popular concert series which showcases graduate students in piano studies at BGSU’s College of Musical Arts returns to the WCDPL Atrium on Monday October 3 at 7 pm. The program features three centuries of keyboard classics from composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, and Chopin. WCDPL’s full programming calendar, including youth programs and scheduling and selections for its popular book discussion groups during the month of October may be seen on line at wcdpl.org/calendar. These events are free and open to all. For more details about these and other programs for adults at WCDPL, call the library at 419-352-5050.


BG solar project faces scrutiny over hiring practices

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A shadow of doubt has been cast over the hiring practices at the massive solar field being built northeast of Bowling Green. Claims have been made that the project is not adhering to the requirement that 80 percent of those employed at the site be Ohio residents. That percentage was a primary factor in the Wood County Commissioners approving a tax abatement for the project. And concerns have been expressed by city officials that there was an expectation that the project would pay prevailing wages. Officials from the electric subcontractor at the site, Blattner Energy, and the contractor for the project, NextEra Energy, both strongly defended their compliance with the 80 percent rule. However, they also clarified that the project has no requirement to pay prevailing wages. The giant solar project has been welcomed as good for the environment and good for the area’s reputation since it will be the largest solar field in Ohio. The project is located on 165 acres owned by the City of Bowling Green at the southeast corner of Carter and Newton roads. The solar array will consist of 85,680 panels that will track the sun from east to west everyday for maximum power generation. But from the beginning, the solar project stirred up a bit of controversy. The Wood County Commissioners initially refused to grant the requested 30-year tax abatement for the $43 million project until their questions were answered. The tax abatement request for the solar field was unlike those that normally come before the commissioners. First, the amount is massive, giving a tax break of $7.3 million over just the first 15 years. Second, the abatement duration is 30 years, compared to the customary 10 to 15 years. Third, there is no ongoing employment, which is the basis for most tax breaks. Construction of the solar field will employ about 85 people from July 18 to Dec. 31. And while 80 percent of those people are required to be Ohio residents – there is no requirement that they come…


The day the pizza died

By ELIZABETH ROBERTS-ZIBBEL BG Independent News Yesterday by lunchtime, my Facebook newsfeed was more united and emotional than I’d seen it since David Bowie unexpectedly passed away in January. More than fifty people had shared links, posts, and personal lamentations that the building housing Myles’ Pizza Pub for 39 years had been sold, and that the recipes and memorabilia that made it legendary would be leaving with its founder Chip Myles, who is retiring. The end of Myles’ Pizza Pub as we know it will be Sunday, October 2. In July, rumors of the restaurant’s closing led to lines out the door, so now that the news is official, pizza chaos has broken out. Yesterday my friend Erin Holmberg commented that right after she heard, she began trying to call and got through after thirty frantic minutes. “Just ordered 4 large pizzas to freeze… the wait time is 3 hours. Pizza panic!” We hadn’t seen anything yet. My husband and I tried to call soon afterward and they had already stopped answering the phone. At 6:30, my friend Scott Marcin quipped on Facebook “Who the hell cares about the debate tonight. Myles Pizza is closing for good Sunday! We got a national crisis on our hands right here in BG.” Myles’ Facebook page and Twitter feed have been posting policies and updates regarding their last week, including the limited menu, predicted wait times, and hours they will be open. You can read the full post here, but some highlights: Pub will open at 11 am and they will stop taking orders at 4 pm  Orders must be placed in person at the restaurant. Internet orders have been turned off and phones are off the hook. No timed orders, orders for another day, or reservations Orders are limited to 3 pizzas When I walked by at 10:30 this morning, a car pulled up and a man yelled out to me, “Hey! They open yet?” I replied that the front door was open, and asked how the two men inside the vehicle felt about the closing. “Sucks,”…


Big dairy blamed for busting up rural roads, draining township road budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Dave Housholder and his fellow Portage Township Trustees are tired of patching township roads only to have them broken and rutted a few months later. “I’m getting a lot of heck from the citizens,” Housholder told the Wood County Commissioners Thursday morning. The problem, according to Housholder, is that the MSB Dairy, a concentrated animal feeding operation with 2,100 cows, is beating up the surrounding roads with frequent use. Any other type of industry causing such heavy traffic could be held responsible for the road wear and tear, he said. But because of agricultural exemptions, the dairy has no such obligations. Portage Township resident Mike Billmaier joined Housholder to explain the problem to the commissioners. In his previous work as a contractor, Billmaier said he was held responsible for road damages. “It was our job to maintain the roads and cleanup our own messes,” he said. If he didn’t comply, “I would have been fined or put out of business.” The two men explained that the roads surrounding the dairy – Bloomdale, Portage, Emerson, Cloverdale and Greensburg – have suffered great degradation. Bloomdale Road, in front of the dairy, was repaired eight weeks ago and now is so torn up, Billmaier won’t drive down it. “I was literally appalled by the amount of damage,” Billmaier said. “It dumbfounds me that this much damage is allowed to go on.” Housholder asked the commissioners to help the township deal with the ongoing problem. First, he asked that they take a drive down past the dairy – which is in the process of expanding to nearly 3,000 cows. “When you come out to the sticks” to campaign for votes, take a drive down those roads, he suggested. “A lot of life has been taken out of them this year,” he said. “The lifespan of these roads is being shortened.” Second, Housholder asked the commissioners to use their weight to push for changes through state legislators or the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. “Please try to crank up the volume,” he…


BG shop owner catches shoplifter with help from strangers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   This crook didn’t stand a chance. He picked the wrong shop owner to steal from – a marathon runner. He picked the wrong location – next to the police station. And he ran the wrong direction – almost getting hit by the city prosecutor’s car before being nabbed by two strangers. Amy Craft Ahrens has chased down shoplifters before – four times, actually. But on Tuesday, the For Keeps shop owner got a little extra help from bystanders. In the end, two good Samaritans tackled the suspected thief, and Craft Ahrens returned to her shop with the stolen purple Vera Bradley bag. Police were quickly on the scene, since the For Keeps shop shares an alley with the police station. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick was sitting in his office with Major Justin White when they heard shouting in the alley. They looked out the window. “We saw Amy running, chasing after someone,” Hetrick said. He couldn’t tell exactly what she was yelling, but “you could tell it was loud and angry.” It all started around noon, when Craft Ahrens was on the phone with a vendor in her shop at 144 S. Main St. She saw a man come in the front door of the store. He walked along the aisle with Vera Bradley items, then headed to the back door. As he walked out the door, “I could see something purple in his hand.” She recognized it as a $108 Vera Bradley bag. “I said, ‘I’ve got to go chase a shoplifter’ and threw the phone down,” Craft Ahrens said. If she would have been thinking clearly, Craft Ahrens said she would have just approached the man quietly. “But I yelled ‘stop,’ and immediately he started running.” “I was yelling, ‘Stop thief,’ like right out of a movie. Who does that?” The man – Randy Arndt – ran out into traffic on Wooster Street, and was almost hit by a car driven by City Prosecutor Matt Reger, who then pulled over in the alley…


Paperwork helps organic gardens grow, ag breakfast told

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Organic farmers are prohibited from using a host of synthetic products. Still there’s an important ingredient if a farmer wants to receive certification – lots of paperwork. Eric Pawlowski, an educator with Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, told the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum last week that nothing happens on an organic farm that isn’t documented. Every chore has to be accounted for to make sure no prohibited substances are used that could call into question a farmer’s organic certification. Pawlowski knows the system well. He teaches farmers about it. He conducts audits of farms to make sure they meet the organic standards. And he’s a farmer himself. On his operation, he said, he has workers write everything down on a dry erase board. At the end of the day, he snaps of photo of the board so he has a record of what has happened throughout that day on his farm. “Everything that’s sold has to be traced to the ground of production,” Pawlowski said. When talking about milk everything is traced to the individual cow. And chores such as cleaning equipment have to be monitored. Organic products are commanding a larger share of the market, and they command a higher price at the market. While a bushel of non-organic corn will sell for $2, a bushel of organic corn may fetch as much as $12. Still going organic is not for the faint of heart. For one there’s the paperwork, and there’s also cost affiliated with earning that certification and maintaining it, including annual audits. “If you’re just in it for the price premium, it’s not going to work. You have to have your heart in it,” Pawlowski said. To be certified a farmer has to prove a parcel of land has been free of prohibited pest and weed control for three years. Then maintain it to the satisfaction of annual audits. That’s not as clear cut as it seems. “There’s a lot of gray areas,” he said. These issues are “site specific.” Reflecting his own…


Time to sign up for “Lights, Camera… Angels!” Holiday Parade

From BG CHAMBER OF COMMERCE The Annual Bowling Green Comunity Holiday Parade Project Team announces the 2016 parade theme “Lights, Camera…Angels!”. This year’s parade will take place Saturday, Nov. 19, starting at 10a.m., in Downtown Bowling Green. Come and join community groups, businesses, bands, and Santa for some fun in the sun this year. With many local participants, this can be your year to join in on all the excitement! Unit Registration & Sponsorship forms are now available for the parade in the Chamber office or at www.bgchamber.net. The deadline to register units for the 2016 Annual Bowling Green Community Holiday Parade is 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7. Registration is $50 for Non-Investors, $25 for Investors and $15 for Non-Profits, with the fees supporting band stipends, parade publicity, general administrative costs, as well as the cost of filming and rebroadcasting the parade (dates and times TBD). Sponsorships or donations to help offset expenses of the parade are also appreciated. Sponsorship and unit registration forms can be downloaded from www.bgchamber.net and mailed to the BG Chamber at P.O Box 31, Bowling Green, Ohio 43402. Sponsorship forms must be received by 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 to be recognized in the media outlets. The 2016 Annual Bowling Green Community Holiday Parade is brought to you by the Premiere Sponsor, Julie’s Dance Studio, with support from BGSU-WBGU-PBS and the City of Bowling Green. The Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce helps improve Investor’s bottom line by offering group discounts on health insurance, informational seminars, creating networking opportunities, and keeping members up-to-date on changing legislation. For more information contact the BG Chamber at (419) 353-7945 or visit www.bgchamber.net.


BGSU Career Center gets new roost where Falcons can hatch careers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University unveiled a new launching pad for Falcons Friday. In cutting the ribbon for the new Career Center and Student Employment Center on the second floor of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, President Mary Ellen Mazey said: “It’s about coming to Bowling Green State University and preparing you for that lifetime of success.” When she first came as president in 2011, one of the first questions she asked Provost Rodney Rogers was where career services were located. The offices, he said, were in an academic building – Math Science, to be precise. That would not do, Mazey said. The new center realizes her vision of putting the Career Center at the heart of student life, in a place where about 50,000 people a week pass through. “It’s right here, front and center,” she said. The design, Jeff Jackson, BGSU assistant vice president for Student Career Success and director of the Career Center, is meant to welcome students into the space, with lounge area with comfortable seating extending out from the office. That’s where employers might come to have a milk shake or nachos with prospective employees. That leads into conferences rooms where they can meet one-on-one with employers. That’s part of how the new center is designed to connect students with employers. That may be a job on campus, an internship, or the job that starts their careers, Jackson said. The office is central to the university’s internship guarantee. BGSU promises that every student will have an opportunity to have an internship or other experiential learning, a co-op job, research project, study abroad, Jackson said. On hand were two people at the opposite ends of the career spectrum. Leigh Dunwood, a junior from Columbus, came to BGSU with little idea what she wanted to do with her life. What she knew was “I wanted to help people.” Through her work with the Career Center – she’s now a student ambassador – and career counseling, she has her sights set on going into higher education student affairs. That…


Ashley Furniture plans to open in BG by November

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ashley Furniture store plans to soon furnish a store here in Bowling Green. On Wednesday evening, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance request from the home furnishings store. Ashley Furniture applied for variance to put up a larger sign than permitted at 816 S. Main St., in the same strip of stores as Big Lots and Subway. The location was formerly a Hallmark store. “They just want a larger sign to be seen from the road,” said Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler. Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals questioned Ashley Furniture representatives about the hardship that the sign restrictions placed on the company. Company officials said the larger sign would be proportionate to the 24,000 square foot store, and would be able to be seen from the road, Sayler said. The board agreed to allow the variance. Company officials reported the furniture store may be open by November. Ashley Furniture has had a distribution center in Bowling Green since 2006. The warehouse, located in Bellard Business Park on the north end of the city, is currently undergoing an expansion to double its size, Sayler said. The retail Ashley Furniture site is leasing the South Main Street space from Southwood Plaza LLC/Tolson Enterprises, in Toledo. “Having a filled-in space is wonderful,” Sayler said. And having a retail store in the same community as the warehouse will make it more convenient for customers, she added. “It seemed like a nature fit,” Sayler said this morning. Also moving into the same strip of stores is a Rapid Fire Pizza restaurant, which will be located just to the south of Ashley Furniture. The zoning variance for Ashley Furniture was requested by Advance Sign Group, to allow the construction of a wall sign that would be 191.42 square feet in size, which is 79.42 square feet larger than allowed in the city’s B-2 general commercial zoning district. The request also asks for permission for the sign to extend 4 feet, 2 inches above the roof line, which…


Huffine offers software consulting with a personal touch

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Susan Huffine brings a personal touch to computer software issues. Huffine has launched HSC Services – Huffine Software Consulting Services – as a full-time business in August. She started the business in March as a part-time endeavor. Now the 1982 graduate of Bowling Green High School is offering knowledge acquired over several decades to area businesses. The software consultant offers a range of services, all customized to the customer’s particular requirements. That includes finding just what software a company needs and how to adapt it to its operations “so the software can work for their company rather than them working for the software.” Huffine also consults on how best to manage systems and analyze a business’s processes. She can set up a basic website and creating advanced databases and spreadsheets for companies. That wide range of services is all delivered with a personal touch. “I need to listen to them,” she said. “I need to ask them questions before I can get to the nitty gritty of what they really need. I cannot create database without them, constantly meeting with them asking questions.” Huffine comes from family of business people. Her father, Bob Huffine, ran a car repair shop in Custar, and her mother, Kay, did the books and continues to work part time at the Farmers and Merchants Bank in the village. “My mother taught me my love for numbers.” She’s proud to have the Huffine name on another business and feels her father, who died in January, is “watching me.” That family background in small business also gives her insight in what it’s like to operate a business, including how tight finances can be. She tries to set her fees accordingly. Huffine, though, didn’t set out to operate a business. She has always loved music and influenced by long-time high school choral director Jim Brown she went to Bowling Green State University to study vocal music. “But life didn’t direct me in that way.” She switched to business education. “I was floundering.” As a student worker in…


Gathering Volumes in Perrysburg offers place for book lovers to congregate

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Like most booklovers, Denise Phillips can name her favorite bookstores. In Chicago, where she and her family lived until moving to Perrysburg five years ago, there is the Book Table. In Ann Arbor, where they’ve made regular trips in the past several years, there’s Literati. But until earlier this summer, she didn’t have one close to home. So Phillips, and her husband, Brian, took initiative and opened Gathering Volumes at 196 E. South Boundary in Perrysburg. “We’ve been searching for an independent bookstore,” she said. One that sells new books. Used bookstores are plentiful. “I think a bookstore is such a community hub,” Phillips said.  “You just feel at home, no matter if you’ve ever been there before.” With a stock reflecting local customers’ interests, book clubs geared to popular genres, and events featuring area authors, that’s just what she envisions Gathering Volumes to be. The store marks a career switch for her. She was a project manager for an information technology firm. When her father died, Phillips said, “I decided I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing, and this was something that was always there for me.” So two years ago she started researching the book trade. And she tapped the expertise of those who ran the kind of bookstore she loved. “The owners of independent bookstores were incredibly helpful and lovely.” The demographics of the Perrysburg area, with higher than average number of college graduates and lots of families with kids, was a promising market. Phillips knows it’s a gamble. “It’s a huge risk,” she said. “There’s no guarantee it will be here in three years.” It was a bet, though, her family was willing to place. With a small business loan, some savings and help from family the business was launched. Her own two children Isaac, 7, and Mackenzie, 10, are two of the stores biggest fans, preferring to come to the shop after school rather than go home. Mackenzie will even “play” bookstore with friends. “I don’t think the bookstore will replace the income…