Business

Eyesore on East Wooster being demolished

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The long boarded-up business on East Wooster Street, just east of the railroad tracks, is being demolished today. The site started out as a Burger Chef fast food restaurant. Over the years it has been occupied by a Hardbodies gym, a hair salon, and The Shed, among other businesses. A fire occurred there more than a decade ago, and the building has been boarded up since. But on Monday, the eyesore was removed. “They are tearing it down right now,” Al Green, of A.A. Green Realty, said Monday morning. In its place, a new structure will be built – with the first floor being a drive-thru Tropical Smoothie business, and the second floor being divided into three apartments. Green said the new building will likely be constructed next spring. “The idea is to clean up the neighborhood down there, and get rid of an unsightly building,” Green said. “I think it will be a good change.” A.A. Green recently purchased the property from Andy Halleck. The new building will have an exterior similar to the facade at Market Square, a Green development at the northeast corner of East Wooster and North Prospect streets. A.A. Green recently put a similar facade on the front of rental business sites just to the west of the Dairy Queen on East Wooster Street. While the appearance of the site will be much improved, the limited parking will remain an issue, Green said. There will be a few parking spaces on each side of the property, plus a drive-thru lane. “It’s going to be a tight parking area, like any downtown parking,” Green said.      


Dose of reality – drugs in workplace costly to business

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independence News   The opiate abuse crisis is not only taking a wrecking ball to families, but it is also wreaking havoc in the workplace. U.S. businesses lose an estimated $42 billion a year in loss of productivity, according to national statistics. Some companies have difficulty finding employees who can pass the initial drug testing. “Businesses can’t find employees who are clean,” said Sarad Nerad, community relations with the drug company Alkermes that makes Vivitrol, the drug that helps addicts shake opiates. “This has huge financial impacts on us as employers.” Then there are the collateral consequences of poor attendance by addicts, accidents on the job, and theft in the workplace. “As a taxpayer, what does this cost us,” Nerad asked during a “lunch and learn” gathering at the Wood County Educational Service Center about drugs in the workplace. The statistics presented at the “Dose of Reality” program were grim: 20 percent of Americans take five or more prescription drugs. 50 percent of those are used improperly. In the average U.S. company, 15 to 17 percent of the employees abuse substances. Ohio is “way worse than the rest of the U.S.,” Nerad said. Overdose is the leading cause of death for those under 55 in “Generation RX.” 217 Americans died while at work in 2016 due to overdoses. Nearly half of prime-age men not in the labor force take pain medication daily. The “perfect storm” of the opiate crisis was created when there was an over-prescribing of opioids, lack of treatment access, poverty, lack of economic opportunities, and health insurance issues, Nerad said. Hooked on opiates are teens, pastors, farmers. “It’s not the guy underneath the bridge anymore,” she said. “It doesn’t discriminate.” Nerad herself is a former addict. She became hooked on opiates at age 15, and by age 17 had been through two treatment programs. She believes in the value of investing in recovery programs. “There are solutions. There are things we know that help,” she said. Statistics show that employees in recovery miss less work than the general workforce, Nerad said. For every dollar spent on employee support programs, businesses get more in return. “They are going to be loyal. They are going to work hard,” she said of recovering addicts. “Give them a second chance. A…


Library hooks up with Lynda.com to connect job seekers with skills they need

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Wood County Public Library Director Michael Penrod has high hopes for what Lynda.com can do for his patrons. The service, now owned by LinkedIn, provides more than 6,800 courses and more than 200,000 of video tutorials   on an array of subjects, with a heavy emphasis on technology and business. It has tutorials on management, photography, design, and much more. All have been vetted for quality and currency, Penrod said. Thanks to a new collaboration with Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning and Ohio Public Library Information Network, the service will soon be available for free to public library users throughout the state. With the new service, local library patrons who need to learn new software to get a new job or promotion can either come into the library’s tech center or log in using their library card information and learn it at home. Looking at the offerings, Penrod already sees videos that he would like members of the library staff to view. Looking through the offerings, he finds videos he would like to view himself. The statewide collaboration was announced Thursday in Columbus. Penrod, who chairs the OPLIN board, said it is fitting that OPLIN is involved in providing this service. In his remarks at the press conference in Columbus Thursday, Penrod said OPLIN “serves as the backbone for connectivity throughout the state by providing broadband internet services to all of Ohio’s 251 public library systems.” Those internet connections make offering Lynda.com possible. Libraries “as the People’s University” have always been on the forefront of helping people improve their job skills. That’s been especially evident following the economic collapse of 2008.  Penrod said “to have this work force development tool is a big game changer for the Ohio public library community.” So a job seeker can find the tutorial for the skills they need. The county district library was considering buying into the service – Perrysburg already offers it. That would have cost as much as $6,000, he said. Now that money can be spent on books that complement what Lynda.com provides, including enhancing a collection at the offices of Job and Family Services. OPLIN, the Ohio Libraries Council, and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation worked together on the project to make sure the training aligns with the jobs that are needed….


Firefly Nights fans party on despite gloomy forecast

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News There was more of the lightning bug than lightning about Firefly Nights Friday in downtown Bowling Green. The second street fair in the monthly summer series was staged under the threat of rain – telephone weather reports had ominous lightning bolts for throughout the event. Yet the rain never amounted more than a heavy sprinkle, and people weren’t scared way as they came to enjoy food, vendors, shopping, music, games and visiting. In deference to the predicted storms, the music was moved inside to Howard’s Club H and Doc’s. But when the storms failed to materialize Ryan Roth & The Sideshow did take the outside stage on the north end of the festival to close out the evening. And vocalist Flannery Murnen and guitarist Mike Bryce, who opened the festival with a set indoors, decided to perform a second impromptu show later in the evening outside on the south stage. Though the weather wasn’t as predicted, Firefly Nights came through as promised with more outdoor food options, both food trucks and eateries serving outdoors, more craft vendors, and more activities for the younger set. The third and final Firefly Nights street fair of the season will be held Aug. 17.  



BG sees success attracting tourists & their spending

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wendy Chambers has long been saying that tourism brings big bucks into Bowling Green. Now she has the official numbers to back that up. Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention & Visitors Bureau, reported to City Council Monday evening that Bowling Green is attracting more visitors. In 2017, BG hotels saw an increase in room rentals of 6.62 percent, with revenue up 8 percent from the previous year. For the first time the state’s study of the economic impact from tourism gave specific numbers just for Bowling Green. According to study, tourism created: $110.9 million in visitor spending in the local economy. $30.2 million in wages. $12.6 million in taxes. 1,527 in employment – or one in every 13 jobs. “Bowing Green is alive and well – and doing well,” Chambers said. The study found that tourism creates jobs in Bowling Green, estimating it sustains 7.8 percent of private employment. The benefits span across various businesses, such as transportation, recreation, retail, lodging, plus food and beverage industries. Of the counties in Northwest Ohio, Wood County ranks third of 22 counties for tourism impact. Ranking first was Lucas County, followed by Erie County in second place. Wood County racked up $504 million in visitor spending, 6,598 jobs with total wages of $139.6 million, and $63.5 million generated in tax revenue in 2017. Recent trends in Bowling Green tourism show a growth in visitor spending from $82.1 million in 2015 to $88.1 million in 2017. In addition to the tourism numbers, Chambers was also excited about the city’s “Best of BG: A Hometown Celebration” planned for Thursday, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Simpson Garden Park. The event will recognize the city’s second time in the last decade of being named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine. “It’s a week of celebrations,” Chambers said. The next project for the Convention & Visitors Bureau will be to work with various businesses and groups on designing a “community brand.” “We’re pretty excited about that,” she said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards recognized Margaret Montague for her service on the city’s Human Relations Commission. “What you have done for our Human Relations Commission is nothing short of truly outstanding,” Edwards said to Montague, who has served…


BG celebrates community’s ‘Best Hometown’ status

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It was a year ago that Bowling Green was named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine. Next week, the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau will remind local residents why their community won that honor. A “Best of BG” event is planned for July 19, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., in the Simpson Garden Park Building, and the surrounding gardens. It’s fitting that the event be held at the park, since the gardens were one of the factors that won Bowling Green its “Best Hometown” status. The event will feature at least 35 businesses in the hospitality, restaurant, retail and lodging sectors, plus non-profit organizations. “We’re pretty excited about it,” said Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re having the opportunity to celebrate again our hometown honor.” Next week is a busy one for local officials. The city and university are hosting the Ohio Town & Gown Summit, with an estimated 150 attending. The Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual luncheon on Friday, followed by the second Firefly Nights downtown in the evening. “It’s a big week,” Chambers said. “Our town’s always got something going on.” That buzz of activity helped the city secure its “Best Hometown” status. As editor of Ohio Magazine, Jim Vickers is accustomed to visiting communities throughout the state. But during his stop in Bowling Green, Vickers was struck by three features of the city – the energy from the university even though most students were gone for the summer, the healthy historic downtown, and the beautiful Simpson Garden Park. The 12th annual Ohio’s Best Hometowns issue of the magazine recognizes four communities in addition to Bowling Green: Marietta, Milford, Mount Vernon and Wooster. Bowling Green beat out other communities because of its vibrant college town atmosphere, strong sense of community and shared vision for the future. “I was in Bowling Green for the site visit,” Vickers said, so he had first-hand knowledge of why the city ranked so high. “Every year we look for towns that exemplify a strong community.” They checked out the campus. “It’s a vibrant college town, even in the summertime,” he said last year shortly after the awards were announced. “There’s an energy there.” They went downtown. “The health…


Poggemeyer has been building up region for 50 years

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For 50 years, Poggemeyer Design Group has left its mark on the region’s roads, buildings, water and sewer projects. “We’re proud of them all,” said Jack Jones, who has been with the company for 46 of those years. The firm started small in a downtown office on East Wooster Street in Bowling Green, under the leadership of Lester Poggemeyer. Since then, it has gone big – filling up its sprawling 33,000-square-foot office building on North Main Street. And it hasn’t stopped there. The firm also has offices in Las Vegas, Reno, and Monroe, Michigan. Earlier this year, another office opened in Savannah, Georgia. The 200 architects, engineers, surveyors and planners average about 200 projects a month. They range from small jobs to major projects – like a $180 million water and wastewater system in Las Vegas, and the $140 million jail in Lucas County. “It’s somewhat unusual to be as multi-disciplined as we are,” said Jones, who is chairman of the board and one of the partners. Jones, a civil engineer, bought out Lester Poggemeyer with other partners in 1987. Originally from Toledo, Jones has chosen to stay at the Bowling Green location. “I think there is a sense of pride working in your own community,” he said. Over the years, Jones and others have used their skills to build projects like the Bowling Green Municipal Courthouse, the University of Toledo College of Pharmacy, the Ottawa County regional water system, plus improvements to North Main Street and East Wooster Street. Between 70 and 80 percent of the jobs are government projects, and the rest are private, Jones said. Though the staff handles huge projects, it also takes on small grant-funded jobs in local villages. When Wood County hands out Community Development Block Grants, engineers from Poggemeyer are frequently the ones making pitches for the small towns. “We try to represent small communities and give them the same expertise the big communities have in-house,” Jones said. “We want to help them secure as much grant money as possible.” The firm also works with a lot of contractors and industrial sites, such as Betco and the new Moser warehouse here in Bowling Green, plus Rudolph Libbe on the Cleveland Cliffs site in Toledo. There’s just something about being part…


Ben’s drops the Franklin from its name

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The name Ben Franklin is a thing of the past on Main Street, Bowling Green. What that name represented, though, lives on under another moniker, Ben’s. “That’s what everyone calls it,” said owner Floyd Craft. Ben Franklin Crafts has been a fixture in downtown for 42 years, since Craft and his wife, Charlotte, brought their young family to town to buy and operate a Ben Franklin franchise. For many years though, the only connection to the chain has been the name – a privilege Craft had to pay for. Back in those early days the iconic American chain was a going concern. It served as the wholesaler for stores as well as providing business services such as accounting and insurance for store owners. All that changed in 1996 when Ben Franklin went into bankruptcy, the first of a series. While that was fatal for many of the stores, especially smaller, more rural operations that relied on the chain for its stock, the Craft family’s business continued. Craft said Tuesday that he realized soon after opening his store that he couldn’t solely use Ben Franklin as a wholesaler. He said he realized he was paying more to Ben Franklin for some items than his competition Rink’s Bargain store was selling them to customers. Now with Ben Franklin having its third owner since the bankruptcy, Craft decided it was time to change the name. So he notified Ben Franklin that he would not renew, and in June the Franklin disappeared from the store’s front, leaving Ben, a shadow of Franklin, and Crafts. The problem is the name doesn’t mean anything to anyone under 50, Craft said. Maybe a college student’s grandma will know what it is. The new sign was designed by Amy Karlovec, who is known for her many award-winning posters for the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Flanking the name will be icons letting customers, especially younger customers, know what the store sells. That merchandise has changed over the years. The store no longer sells underwear. Changing with the times is what kept Ben Franklin a going concern, shifting stock based on customer demands and the competition. Craft said he was conservative in running the operation making sure to pay off his debt as soon as possible. That helped him…


Stadium View fills housing niche in BG for 50 years

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Fifty years ago, the property where Stadium View Apartments now stands was an empty field. Cattle grazed at the neighboring Carter Park property. Nearby, Bowling Green State University was growing, and was running out of housing for students. So Norm and Barb Holley had a vision. “This was just a field,” said Ryan Holley, grandson to Norm and Barb. “BGSU was going through a boom and didn’t have places to put students.” So the couple built an apartment complex off Clough Street near Campbell Hill Road. “They called it Stadium View because at the time you could see the stadium,” Ryan Holley said. That view is no longer there, being blocked by commercial buildings. But the apartment complex is still owned by Norm and Barb Holley, who continue to live next door. Taking over management from the founders were their children, Rob Holley and Cindy McCarthy. Now managing the complex is their grandson, Ryan Holley. On Wednesday, July 11, Stadium View Apartments will celebrate its 50th anniversary, from 4 to 7 p.m. The apartment complex, with 224 units, now specializes in non-student housing. “We saw a need for housing not just for students,” Ryan Holley said. “That’s been our niche ever since.” The strategy has worked for the family. “We almost always have a waiting list,” Holley said. “Our business model is all about the retention, not the turnover.” “We’ve had residents here for 40 years, 30 years,” Holley said, noting that one resident knew him as a baby. The average resident’s stay is eight years. The secret, he said, is taking care of the apartment complex and changing with the times. “We take a lot of pride in our property,” he said. “It’s a reflection on us. We love this community.” Stadium View offers residents an indoor and outdoor pool, fitness center, playground, plus easy access to Carter Park, BGSU and Interstate 75. Capital improvements are frequently being made at the complex, such as new boilers, windows, ceiling fans, and LED conversion as the complex “goes green.” Stadium View allows pets, and since the early 2000s has gone completely non-smoking. The complex also offers recycling collection. Holley called the complex a “hidden gem.” “We don’t really advertise,” he said, adding that word-of-mouth comments are enough to…


New hotel going up in BG where Victory Inn came down

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A new hotel is being built on the site of the defeated Victory Inn in Bowling Green. The owner of the Victory Inn – Jamal Garmo of Michigan – is building a new Home 2 Suites by Hilton, which specializes in extended stays. The old Victory Inn was demolished in 2015 after nearly five years of Bowling Green and Wood County Health Department officials trying to get hotel to clean up issues. The hotel, at 1630 E. Wooster St., was frequently the source of complaints about bedbugs, plumbing and electrical problems, the lack of smoke alarms and cleanliness violations. Garmo approached the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals in 2016, since the new hotel exceeds the city’s height and story limits. His request was for a variance to allow construction of a 107-room hotel on the eastern portion of the seven acres that previously housed Victory Inn. The proposed hotel is 65 feet tall, five feet taller than allowed, and five stories high, one story higher than allowed in B-2 general commercial zoning The request was initially turned down. By building upward, the 107-room hotel would have a much smaller footprint than the two-story Victory Inn which had 103 rooms, the developer said. The developer also said the smaller footprint of the taller hotel will allow for other businesses on the seven-acre site. He said the remainder of the property could possibly be “mixed use” with some retail, office and residential. Garmo filed an appeal of the city’s decision, stating the denial was “unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious and an unreasonable exercise of discretion.” The appeal also stated the denial posed an “unreasonable hardship” against Garmo. In November of 2016, the city changed the zoning language to allow a hotel to have five floors, as long as the height of the building did not exceed 60 feet.


BG may try electric credit to jolt industrial growth

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope a new electric credit may get some industries charged up to increase their power usage. The Board of Public Utilities recently discussed adoption of a development electric rate rider, which would give a short-term savings to medium large industries that expand their electric use. There are about 80 industries in the city that would qualify. The industries would have to increase electric usage by at least 10 percent, plus sign an economic development agreement with the city. It hasn’t yet been determined if the credit would extend for three or five years. But each year of the program, the credit would reduce. For example, during the first year the company could get 30 percent credit. That could decrease to 20 percent the second year, and 10 percent in the third. The ultimate goal – in additional to selling more electricity – is to create more jobs in Bowling Green, according to Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for the city. Vehtek, for example, has upped its electric use to 9 megawatts, and has increased its workforce to about 750 people, O’Connell said. The largest electric users in the city are Bowling Green State University, Vehtek and Southeastern Container. Increased electric sales would also help the entire city, he added. The credit would also be offered to new businesses. “That may be why somebody might want to be here,” O’Connell said. “By bringing in a new customer, it helps the existing customers as well.” The board will continue to discuss the issue at its July meetings. Also at the public utilities meeting, the board agreed to advertise for bids for tree trimming and removal services. The four-year contract with Nelson tree service is coming to an end at the close of 2018. Trimming of trees helps reduce power outages caused by fallen limbs, O’Connell said. The contract has four one-year cycles, with each ward in the city being done at a time. Nelson is in Ward 1 this year. The budget includes $110,000 for this service, O’Connell said. The board also approved a renewal of the city’s contract for wastewater collection and treatment to the village of Portage, located south of Bowling Green. The agreement has been in place since 1991, but the village…


Good news: County getting 1,000 new jobs; Bad news: Region running out of workers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County is having a banner year in business expansions – creating nearly 1,000 new jobs. But the issue waiting in the wings is the low unemployment level in the region, wavering between 3 and 4 percent. While that low rate is great news to employees, it is also 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 Thursday morning during his quarterly report to the county commissioners. But right now, Wood County is reveling in the news that four manufacturing plants are expanding here: First Solar, in Lake Township, investing $400 million and creating 500 jobs. Walgreens, in Perrysburg Township, investing $80 million and creating 350 jobs. Continental Structural Plastics, in North Baltimore, creating 100 jobs. Equity Meats, in Bloom Township, creating 50 jobs. “It’s been a very busy start for the year,” Gottschalk told the commissioners. And three other businesses have shown great interest in locating in the county, making multiple visits here, he added. “There are three percolating through the system,” Gottschalk said, without revealing the business names. Wood County has an estimated 60,000 people in its labor force. So 600 jobs is about 1 percent of the unemployment rate, he explained. That means the county’s ability to attract new industry will become more challenging. Gottschalk predicted that companies with upper tier wages will still be able to attract employees, but others may struggle to fill positions. “It will make it more difficult to attract average-pay employers,” he said. Existing companies in Wood County are already having trouble filling empty positions, Gottschalk said. “The available labor force is relatively small,” he said. For years, Ohio has been attractive to prospective employers because of the strong work ethic associated with employees. “Ohio has a very good reputation for its labor force,” Gottschalk said. “It just doesn’t have enough.” The state is seeing its older population grow, and its younger population not being replenished. “There are a lot of people looking at the labor situation,” he said. “We have an aging population and a very low growth rate. There will be a smaller labor force to draw…


Earlene Kilpatrick leaving BG chamber after decade of service

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News After 10 years on the job as executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, Earlene Kilpatrick still gets goosebumps when the awards for individuals and businesses are handed out. The July 20 Mid-Year luncheon will be her last time to preside over such festivities. She’s leaving her job with the chamber on Oct. 1, exactly 10 years from the day she started. That was on the cusp of an economic crisis that gripped the country. Bowling Green wasn’t spared, but it has bounced back. Looking back, Kilpatrick said: “It’s been smooth. It’s been truly a fantastic experience.” That’s despite long hours, and the occasional disappointment. Twice in recent years the Holiday Parade has been canceled. Her husband, Claude Kilpatrick, has teased her that those will be her legacy. That’s hardly the case. “She’s really done an amazing job of growing the chamber to what it is today,” said Jerid Friar, president of the chamber’s board of director. “I would have to say things are more clearly defined than they were. The direction we’re headed is a very positive one.” He praised the way she’s developed new programs, such as the Michael Brown personal development workshops and events such as the business after hours gatherings. This has helped strengthen participation, Friar said. The organization’s annual golf outing, its largest fundraiser raised a record amount this year. Kilpatrick said that overall the membership has increased slightly, though she feels investors’ engagement with the group has increased. “It’s a very intense job,” she said. It can involve 50 to 60 hours a week. “But it’s very rewarding … You create friendships along the way.” She feels satisfaction in working with the chamber’s project teams, or city ad hoc committees, and university town-gown efforts. And she’s proud of the more than 3,400 volunteer hours people devoted to the chamber as well as the efforts of ACT BG raising money for charities. The opening of the Four Corners Center in the former Huntington Bank has lived up to its goals. The building houses the chamber, Downtown Bowling Green, Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation. The arrangement allows the agencies to better collaborate and direct business from one to the other. Kilpatrick arrived at the chamber…


The Beat balances rigor & joy in its dance training

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Colleen Murphy’s mother enrolled her in dance classes in Toledo when she was 3. “I don’t remember not dancing.” Now as the owner of The Beat dance studio she’s the one helping to shape the moving memories of hundreds of young girls, and a handful of boys. The Beat Dance Company just completed its 10th year in business, and its first full year in its new studio space at 1330 Brim Road in Bowling Green. Like the parents of many of her students, her mother wanted to give her an early start. Murphy said she has mothers of children as young as 18 months inquiring about signing them up for dance lessons. The little ones have to wait a year before they can start in the studio’s Mini Movers program. From there they can continue through high school, and beyond. College students who studied at The Beat will return in the summer for classes, Murphy said. She said she can often spot the young students who will stick with dance. “It’s how eager they are to be here. They get here early and don’t want to leave at the end.” The demand for dance, driven by such pop culture phenomenon as “Dancing with the Stars,” remains strong. Despite a number of other studios locally and in the area, The Beat has 250 students. Some dancers take recreational classes in a few styles while others are more serious and audition for the studio’s competitive team. Recent auditions attracted 100 dancers. “Dance is a nice balance between physical activity and the fun of putting on a show and wearing the costumes,” Murphy said. For the youngest they learn basic coordination and “how to take direction from someone other than mom or dad.” She stresses a balance of good technique while having fun, exploring movement working together with their peers, and technique specific to a style. The older dancers work on artistry and, as their schedules get busier, learn to manage their time and see a commitment through. Some dancers participate in their high schools’ dance teams or in theater. “It’s fun, too,” Murphy said. “We’re always having fun in class.” And “for some it becomes their second home, they get really close to their fellow dancers and their teachers,” Murphy said,…