Business

Downtown parking committee needs more time

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The committee examining downtown parking needs more time on the meter. Bowling Green Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter told City Council Monday evening that the parking committee would like more time to study the issue of how parking gets paid for downtown. The committee originally had till the end of October, but asked for an extension till the Nov. 5 council meeting. The request was granted. “We’re very thankful of the participation of business owners and property owners,” Council President Mike Aspacher said. The parking committee includes the following downtown property and business owners: Dick Newlove; Greg Halamay, owner of Finders Records; Kim Thomas, owner of the H&R Block Building; Kati Thompson, owner of Eden Fashion Boutique; Ben Waddington, owner of Waddington Jewelers; Floyd Craft, owner of Ben’s and Ace Hardware; and Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s. Also attending the parking meetings, representing the city, are Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, Director of Finance Brian Bushong, Police Chief Tony Hetrick and City Councilman Bruce Jeffers. The committee is charged with looking at whether the city should continue to charge for parking, or if the property and business owners want to work on a shared cost approach, Fawcett said. “They are examining all options,” Fawcett said. The committee was initially given two months to come up with a solution for maintaining downtown parking. The cost of parking meters will double in the downtown area if a solution isn’t found. Two proposals being considered are: Doubling meter costs to 50 cents an hour to pay for parking lot maintenance. Pulling out all parking meters and kiosks, and assessing downtown property and business owners for parking costs. The problem is that the city isn’t making enough from its downtown parking meters to pay for repaving the lots and enforcing parking rules. But the fear is that doubling parking costs will discourage customers from patronizing downtown businesses. The city’s downtown lots – with their 600-plus parking spaces – are struggling due to flat revenue, increasing costs and aging infrastructure. So the options suggested in August included increasing the parking revenue, sharing the costs of maintaining the parking lots, or getting rid of some of the expenses. Under a shared cost program, the downtown property owners would be assessed based on their front footage and the benefits to their parcels. The average property owner would pay $220 a year for 20 years. The lowest amount charged would be $30 a year. The highest – to the owner of multiple properties – would be $2,000 a year. Those assessments would generate about $20,000 a year. The concept of the downtown property owners picking up the tab for parking expenses was not supported by the landowners during a meeting earlier this year. However, the business owners attending the last council meeting stated they would be willing to share in the expenses if it meant customers wouldn’t have to pay for parking. The benefits of getting rid of parking meters would be multi-faceted, Tretter said. It would be a marketing opportunity for downtown businesses, it would eliminate the need for meter or kiosk replacements, and it would mean the city would no longer have to pay property taxes on the parking lots since they would not be…


NSG Pilkington may build new glass plant in Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Troy Township is on the list of possible sites for a new glass plant estimated to cost close to $300 million to build and furnish. Earlier this week, paperwork was filed at the Wood County Commissioners’ Office from NSG Pilkington Glass requesting an enterprise zone agreement that would give the company a 100 percent tax abatement for 15 years. “This is not a done deal by any means,” said Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. “They are still investigating other sites.” The Wood County site making the short list of locations for the new plant is off Pemberville Road, just south of Garling Road, Gottschalk said. The location is south of the massive Home Depot warehouse off Pemberville Road. The paperwork states that NSG Pilkington will create 150 jobs at the new 511,000-square-foot plant, according to Sandy Long, clerk of the county commissioners. The total investment at the site is estimated at between $260 million and $294 million, including the construction, machinery, fixtures and inventory for the new float glass facility. Todd Huffman, plant manager at the Rossford NSG facility, said Thursday that the company recently developed a new type of glass coating. The new transparent conductive oxide coating is thinner and lighter while being durable and resistant to chemicals. It can be widely used for solar cells, buildings, cars and various electronics and medical devices. The Rossford plant will continue its production, but a new plant is needed to produce the transparent conductive oxide coating glass. “We are going to be expanding in North America,” Huffman said, not elaborating on how many sites are under consideration. The request for tax abatement is just one item on a long list of criteria the company is considering for a new location. The location will be somewhere close to Toledo, Huffman said. “We need to be making glass for our customers in the fourth quarter of 2020,” he said. That means construction must start in the spring of 2019, Huffman explained. Gottschalk said he is hoping the Troy Township location makes the cut for the new plant. “It’s a great local company,” he said of NSG Pilkington. “We’d love to land this company in Wood County.” “This is yet another example of the attractiveness of Wood County for economic development,” Gottschalk said. “We hope to get another big win for Wood County.” Earlier this year, NSG Pilkington was named Wood County Corporate Citizen of the Year, during the annual meeting of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. The company, one of the largest manufacturers in the glass industry, started out as Libbey-Owens-Ford – the last names of three inventors in the glass business – Edward Drummond Libbey, Michael Joseph Owens and Edward Ford. The earliest roots reach back to 1818 in England. The mission of NSG Pilkington is to produce quality glass with world-class yields, Huffman said. The company has 350 employees at its highly robotic float glass and advanced assembly plant in Rossford, and another 120 engineers and finance employees at its Northwood location. The company sells to automotive customers around the world, as far away as South Korea and Turkey. The glass is also used in architecture as windows and shower doors, Huffman said. Some of the…


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…


Bruce Meyer builds on his love of BG & BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bruce Meyer doesn’t have a crystal ball on his desk. As Bowling Green State University’s vice president for capital planning and campus operations, Meyer could use one at times. “My job involves working with faculty, working with staff, working with the community,” he said. “We’re trying to predict the future as to what programs may have to be put in place, what classroom might look like, what residence halls might look like, so when it comes time to build, we’ll have an idea of what those will look like.” Meyer is engaged in the early stages of coming up with the campus master plan 2.0, he said. That involves interviewing the leadership of BGSU. “That’s been very interesting and informative for me about where we may be heading next.”  That peering in the future, however, comes at a time when he and his team are working on the final stages of the campus master plan. That one dates to 2008, though, work didn’t start until 2010, about the time Meyer, a long-time resident of Bowling Green, arrived back at his alma mater. Now construction is well underway on the Mauer Center, the new home of the College of Business.  That project is converting Hanna Hall and expanding it by twice its current size. He said he was recently did a walkthrough Hanna Hall. “It’s pretty amazing to go into the building,” he said. “They’ve started to take some of the walls out because it’s going to be an open concept.  … It’s going to be one of those buildings where you’ll want to stop and see what’s going on in there.” The Mauer Center is scheduled to open a year from now. The next piece is a complete renovation of the College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering. The programming for the building and visits to other campuses to see their technology buildings are underway. Next summer will see a renewal of the conversion of classrooms into active learning spaces. One of the earliest projects accomplished under the master plan was the creation of prototype classrooms in Olscamp.  “We’re starting to get comments back from students that are very positive,” Meyer said. “They really like the active learning classrooms.” While these don’t get the attention that a new building or complete renovation of an iconic building such as University Hall get, their impact is as great. “It’s off the charts. That’s where future teachers from this university start. They get to see what active learning is.” That will help shape their own teaching. Meyer added: “We also have to have some discussion about the residence halls.” The Master Plan calls not just for building but tearing down. Harshman Quad was razed earlier in the summer. Now the fence is down and grass is planted. Trees will go in this fall. The future use of the site, though, is still uncertain. Another building is slated to come down is the Administrative Building. That’s scheduled for 2021. That will mean the relocation of offices of marketing and communication, registrar, bursar, financial aid and the College of Arts and Sciences. The intent is to open up the campus to the community. Already the campus looks better with the removal of West Hall and the Family and Consumer Science  building, Meyer…


Vintage shirt fundraiser a perfect fit for Finders & Downtown Bowling Green

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For Finders Records having a vintage-theme t-shirt made in the store’s honor was a perfect fit, especially when shop owner Greg Halamay decided the store’s share of the profits would benefit Downtown Bowling Green. The shirt will be created by BG Memories, a local spirit ware company founded by Ryan Fowler and Kevin Goldner, both 2003 Bowling Green State University graduates. As of midnight, the green and gold shirt can now be ordered. Ordering will continued through Sept. 9. Laura Fredericks, manager of Finders, said it hasn’t been determined whether they will be available after that. Fredericks is a faithful customer of the company’s shirts that offer designs celebrating aspects of BGSU life, including the now-gone Harshman Quad and its dining hall. Local businesses, current, Campus Pollyeyes, defunct, Mark’s Pizza Pub, and somewhere in between, the Corner Grill, also have their own BG Memories attire. When BG Memories approached Finders, Fredericks and Halamay had a rather short conversation, he remembers. The decision was to go with the shirt and donate the store’s share, which probably will be in the neighborhood of $10 a shirt, to the Downtown BG. Halamay serves on the board of the special improvement district. “Everything the SID does downtown contributes to the health and well-being of our retail operation.” That includes clearing snow in the winter, hanging flowers in warmer weather, and sweeping sidewalks year round. It has sponsored the local Farmers Market and worked with the independent groups that stage the Black Swamp Arts Festival and Firefly Nights. Many people, he said, assume that what the SID does is paid for by the city. Downtown BG’s activities are funded through a special tax levied on property owners, who voted it in. Downtown BG also gets private donations. “As a property owner, a business owner, I thought it was a good idea and very, very appropriate” to donate the proceeds to Downtown BG, Halamay said. The shirt will be distinct from Finders’ own classic t-shirts. Those shirts, designed by Tony Duda, have been around with a few tweaks for about 35 years. The logo is familiar to anyone who works in the store. It’s based on the old sign from the campus store that is still displayed in the back office. The new shirt harks back to an earlier time, the first Finders shirt. Halamay designed those, and a few were screen printed. Like that one, the BG Memories version will be green with a gold design – the colors inspired by those of the high school Halamay attended in Akron. Those colors are still used throughout the store. Fredericks said she and BG Memories also did research into old store ads to fine tune the design. Fredericks said that she and BG Memories decided that initially at least the shirts will not be printed on demand as are the company’s other products, but screen printed once the orders are in. The shirts will be printed on premium Bella+Canvas blend shirts. Finders has been a mainstay in the downtown since 1971. Halamay said he came to BG in 1969 to attend college. He liked the historic downtown then, and for all the changes, is still a fan. The store has remained dedicated to selling recorded music, but the formats have changed…


Kroger announces it will phase out plastic bags by 2025

From THE KROGER COMPANY The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) announced today it will phase out single-use plastic bags and transition to reusable bags across its Family of Stores by 2025. Seattle-based QFC will be the company’s first retail division to phase out single-use plastic bags. The company expects QFC’s transition to be completed in 2019. “As part of our Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment, we are phasing out use-once, throw-it-away plastic bags and transitioning to reusable bags in our stores by 2025,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations.” Some estimates suggest that 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S. every year. Currently, less than five percent of plastic bags are recycled annually in America, and single-use plastic bags are the fifth-most common single-use plastic found in the environment by magnitude. Kroger will solicit customer feedback and work with NGOs and community partners to ensure a responsible transition. “We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” said Mike Donnelly, Kroger’s executive vice president and COO. “That’s why, starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options. This decision aligns with our Restock Kroger commitment to live our purpose through social impact.” Kroger’s announcement follows several other Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiatives at scale, including:   Kroger’s goal to divert 90% of waste from the landfill by 2020. Of the waste diverted today, 66.15 million pounds of plastic and 2.43 billion pounds of cardboard were recycled in 2017. Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Food Rescue Program sent more than 91 million pounds of safe nutritious food to local food banks and pantries in 2017. Kroger provided more than 325 million meals to families in need last year, in food and funds combined. Earlier this week, Kroger was named to Fortune magazine’s Change the World 2018 list, debuting in the sixth spot. The recognition highlights the work of 57 big companies across the world using their resources to solve societal problems. The company was recognized for its social impact plan Zero Hunger | Zero Waste. To learn more about Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative and the phaseout of single-use plastic bags, visit krogerstories.com. At The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), we are dedicated to our Purpose: to Feed the Human SpiritTM. We are nearly half a million associates who serve over nine million customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,779 retail food stores under a variety of banner names, serving America through food inspiration and uplift, and creating #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025. 


BG at a crossroads with downtown parking

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is searching for just the ticket to solve its parking problems downtown. The city isn’t making enough from its downtown parking meters to pay for repaving the lots. Initially, a proposal was made to double the parking rates from 25 cents to 50 cents an hour. But on Monday evening, City Council’s Finance Committee discussed options ranging from offering all free parking, to charging more for tickets, to charging citizens a special assessment. Some downtown business owners and one citizen shopper weighed in on the issue. The discussion will continue Sept. 4, at 6 p.m., in the City Council chambers. “Probably everybody needs a little time to discuss this report,” said Bruce Jeffers, head of the finance committee. “I think we all understand there’s no parking that is free. It has to be paid by somebody,” Jeffers said. Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the options Monday evening to the council committee members Jeffers, Mike Aspacher and Greg Robinette. The city’s downtown parking lots are struggling due to flat revenue, increasing costs and aging infrastructure. So the options are increasing the parking revenue, sharing the costs of maintaining the parking lots, or getting rid of some of the expenses. Other Ohio college communities such as Kent and Oxford charge up to $1 an hour for parking. Toledo charges at least 50 cents per hour. However, no parking meters are used in Perrysburg, Defiance, Waterville, Findlay or Maumee. Tretter presented the following ideas under each option. Increase parking revenue: Moving all the parking violation fees into the parking fund rather than sharing them with the city’s general fund. That move, however, would negate council’s efforts from last year to make up the general fund deficit with a garbage fee. Add parking meters and charge a premium rate for on-street parking on Main and Wooster. Increase the current parking rate as high as $1 per hour. Share the costs: Allocate the cost of maintenance to the downtown property owners. Share the costs with all city property owners through a special assessment. Reduce the costs: Remove meters and enforcement, resulting in all free parking. This still leaves maintenance costs. Go back to all meters. Use meters for parking at premium rates on the street, with free parking behind the stores, which would reduce enforcement needs. Out-source parking operations to a private entity. Sell property for development and/or parking operations. “We really feel we’re at a crossroads here,” Tretter said. Two years ago, the city attempted to move toward the newer trend of parking kiosks. While some like the change, others have difficulty using the kiosks and avoid that parking lot. “We’ve gotten pretty mixed reviews,” Tretter said. “We feel really torn.” Aspacher asked about the cost sharing among downtown property owners. Tretter said the closer a property is to a parking lot, the more money would be charged. The average annual assessments ranged from $27 to $2,000 for owners of several properties in the downtown. Aspacher also said he was intrigued by the possibility of all free parking in the downtown. Some business owners shared that interest. However, some expressed concerns that they had never been approached about the options being considered. Kati Thompson, owner of Eden Fashion Boutique, suggested there is a disconnect…


Firefly Nights announces a Halloween-themed encore festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even after a wet start to the evening, the more than 200 people who were around at the end for Friday’s Firefly Night festival, still wanted more music from the closing act Freight Street. So the local folk-rock quintet, fronted by Boo Lee Crosser with singer Flannery Murnen, drummer JP Stebal, bassist Devonte Stovall, and violinist Kathleen Schnerer, obliged. This was to have been end of the three-event community festivals for the season. But organizers also have an encore planned. The businesswomen who spearheaded and organized Firefly Nights in downtown Bowling Green announced at the end of the night that there will be one more festival this year on Oct. 19. The October event will feature the same mix of music, food, kid activities, and shopping, only with a Halloween theme. Working with Downtown Bowling Green, the Firefly Night fest will take the place of downtown treat or treating. Mary Hinkelman, director of Downtown BG, said that the festival was a way to continue the trick or treating while adding more activities both for youngsters and the whole family. Kati Thompson, one of the Firefly founders, said the idea came up through discussions by the organizers. Hinkelman responded favorably to the possibility, and suggested using it to replace downtown trick or treating. With about 2,000 kids taking part last year, the event is becoming unmanageable, she said, with kids having to wait in long lines to get their treats. They then approached the city about the possibilities of staging another festival, which requires closing Main Street in downtown off to traffic. City officials approved. In announcing the event, Thompson said: “Don’t worry we’ll still have plenty of treats for the children, but we’ll combine that with fun for the entire community.” What Halloween activities will be offered and how the treat or treating will be handled is still being discussed. Possibilities include hayrides, a kiddie parade, Halloween and fall themed activities, doughnuts and cider, and even a costume contest for children and adults. Thompson said details will be forthcoming. The Oct. 19 Firefly Nights festival will be held 6-10 p.m., same as the summer events. Friday’s event got off to a soggy start with a downpour shortly after it began. Festivalgoers sought shelter under awnings, and in shops and restaurants. Laura Wicks and Gayle Walterbach, two of the founders, said they expected restaurants did well. Boosting local business is part of the mission of Firefly Nights, they said. But the food trucks that stayed had lines by closing time. Other vendors, however, probably suffered. That’s the nature of an outdoor festival, Wicks said. Both were upbeat at how the summer events had gone, and enthusiastic about the encore to come.  


Food waste talk gives ag breakfast attendees plenty to chew on

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Clean your plate. If only the solution to food waste was that simple. As Brian Roe, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics of Ohio State University, neither the problem nor the solutions are simple. Roe was the speaker at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum Thursday presented by CIFT at the Ag Incubator on Route 582. The problem is global, he said, though the details differ. In developing countries the waste comes earlier in the supply chain. Once the food reaches the consumer, it gets consumed. In the United States and other developed countries, the problem is focused the closer the food comes to reaching the kitchen. The cost of the problem is “staggering,” Roe said. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 31 percent of the world’s food production is lost. In the United States, the USDA estimates that percentage of loss is experienced on the retail and consumer levels in the United States as well. That means in 2010, 133 billion pounds of food were wasted at a cost of $162 billon. That waste of past-date milk, shriveled produce, and stale cereal, represents a waste of the resources that go into producing those products – the water, land, and labor. This also costs households money for products that they buy and then throw away without using. And that food, Roe said, could help feed the one in six American children who live in households that experience food insecurity. Feeding America, estimates there is 48 million pounds lost before the food even gets to market and another 22 billion pounds at local markets a year. This is usable food, Roe said. Once that food is discarded the problems continue. About 20 percent of what goes into the nation’s overstuffed landfills is food waste. As it decomposes, it forms methane gas. Only the United States and China account for more greenhouse gases than what food waste produces. Two-thirds of the food wasted in the U.S. is lost in the home. Roe said that confusing labeling of food is a particular problem. Terms such as “sell by,” “best used by,” and “expires on” are not as precise as they may seem and often lead consumers to throw out still edible food. An experiment conducted at OSU tested the influence these labels have on consumers. A cross-section of people were given milk of various ages to smell. When the milk was labeled, the subjects were more likely to say the older milk smelled bad. “But all bets were off,” Roe said, when the milk was not labeled. Only the second freshest batch, 25 days old, was deemed to have an off smell by the same number of testers. Roe said that the milk did have an off-flavor, probably having to do with the feed the cows ate. But without the label even 40-day old milk was found acceptable by about 60 percent of the testers. The language used is not regulated, but rather determined by the manufacturers, who are concerned about someone buying something that may not be at its prime and reflect poorly on the brand. Roe studied language related to food packaging in Ohio law and found the references to the terms contradictory and confusing. Fine tuning that legislative…


Cheap parking in downtown BG may soon expire

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Patience has expired with the current parking meter fees to pay for downtown park lot expenses. So on Monday evening, Bowling Green City Council will hear the first reading of an ordinance to double the parking fees from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour. The price hike is proposed because the current parking rates are failing to pay for on-street and off-street public parking expenses in the downtown, explained Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. All the nickels, dimes and quarters – plus a portion of the parking fines – are supposed to pay for the parking paving, maintenance, enforcement personnel and equipment, parking meters, kiosks, and taxes on the lots. The downtown parking fund gets no support from other city funds. The city’s 2018 budget projected a $21,000 deficit in the parking fund. That hole was filled by the fund’s balance, but that balance is dropping steadily, Fawcett said Friday afternoon. Also looming over the parking budget is the fact that three of the four downtown parking lots need to be paved soon. The only one to be repaved since 2000 is Lot 2,  behind Panera. The proposed fee hikes should not come as a surprise to downtown merchants or the organization which represents them, Fawcett said. “We’ve been trying to tell people as much as we can,” he said. “This is the culmination of conversations over the last couple years.” Downtown businesses were advised of the proposed parking fee hike on City Council’s agenda. “No one seemed surprised by that,” Fawcett said. City officials hope customers coming downtown are not put off by the doubling of the parking fee. Though some may try to avoid pay parking, Fawcett said Bowling Green’s parking will still be a bargain compared to other cities in the region. “We looked around the entire area. Even at 50 cents an hour, we are very competitive,” he said. For at least six years, the parking lot revenue has had difficulty keeping up with the expenses, Fawcett said. In 2013 and 2015, the revenue “just barely” surpassed expenses. In 2014, the city broke even. The last three years, the expenses have been higher than the incoming coins. “It has always been close,” he said. The parking fees, plus a portion of the parking ticket revenue averages about $220,000 a year, Fawcett said. The fee hike is expected to help the fund recover. “I think it would likely provide a temporary relief for that fund,” he said. The parking ticket fees will not be increased. But the long-term parking charges used by apartment renters or businesses downtown are proposed to double. For example, the rate for one space for half a year will jump from $130 to $260. The city’s goal was to gradually change all downtown city parking lots to kiosks rather than metered parking. The lot behind Panera is the city’s first experiment with parking kiosks. “Our desire is to make paying for parking as easy as possible for people,” Fawcett said. If kiosk parking is expanded to other city lots, it’s doubtful it will be the same type as already used in Lot 2, he said. At that point, Lot 2 would be retrofitted to be the same as the other lots. “The ones we…