Chase is banking on former Jed’s site downtown

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two years after Jed’s served up its last chicken “fireball” in Bowling Green, the site at the downtown four corners is being remodeled to be used as a bank. Chase Bank has signed a lease with owner Bob Maurer for the old Millikin Hotel property at the southeast corner of South Main and East Wooster streets. “They have committed to the site and are actively remodeling it,” Maurer said this morning. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank National Association is still waiting for state and federal approval of the location, but bank officials are confident those approvals will be forthcoming, Maurer said. The site, with its bright yellow storefront, has been sitting vacant for two years. “It needed a lot of work,” Maurer said. “It had been a bar for many years, and it needed a major facelift.” The site gets a lot of vehicular and foot traffic, but no real bites until Chase bank. “We had inquiries, but nothing panned out until Chase came along,” he said. The bank is planning a major remake for the site – investing about $3 million, according to Maurer. “It will be completely new,” he said. Maurer said the downtown location, with no room for a drive-thru window, seemed like an unusual site for a bank. “We did give them numerous alternatives, but they definitely wanted to be downtown at the four corners,” he said. Chase will have a walk-up ATM on the Wooster Street side. The main entrance will be off South Main Street, and will open up into a different type of banking business, Maurer said. “It will almost be like walking into a very nice living room. It won’t be like a typical bank. It will be very formal.”      

Feeling congested? Summer of street closures in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Motorists trying to navigate through Bowling Green this summer have encountered many roadblocks – literally. The downtown is torn up and lanes are shut down as Columbia Gas crews replace natural gas lines. A section of Thurstin was closed earlier this summer for BGSU to work on a utility tunnel. Alternating portions of Manville Avenue have been closed for repaving by the city. And several railroad crossings have been blocked for CSX work this summer. “It’s kind of a perfect storm with Columbia Gas downtown, CSX at the tracks,” along with the city and university projects, said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator for Bowling Green. When the city notified residents last week that tree trimming on private property would close some spaces in a downtown city parking lot, a citizen responded on Facebook: “If they close any more streets and public spaces in this town, we all need to leave on vacation.” Fawcett understands. “It’s not easy,” getting around some areas of the city this summer, he said. “It isn’t a perfect situation,” Fawcett said. “But we don’t have a choice in the matter.” The city has been issuing frequent notices about which streets and parking areas will be next on the closure list as the work continues. “From the city’s perspective, we’re trying to get the information out so people know how to navigate the work zones,” Fawcett said. All the work is necessary – and will result in a safer and better city for residents once it’s all complete, he said. The gas line work is primarily on Main Street, from Clay Street to Ordway Avenue, but is also extending down some side streets, alleys and into parking lots. The project is part of many upgrades being done to prevent problems with aging lines. The bare steel lines are being replaced with plastic pipes. Initially, the Columbia Gas work was scheduled for 2019. However, since Bowling Green is planning major streetscape work in the downtown next summer, the gas line work was bumped ahead a year. “We wanted them to get in and out before we pave the streets next year,” Fawcett said. Raquel Colon, external affairs specialist for Columbia Gas of Ohio, said the downtown project which started in June will not be completed until sometime in October. “We have brought some additional crews in to keep the progress moving,” Colon said on Wednesday. The project is slow moving because there are 110 customers affected and so many individual lines that have to be replaced. Columbia Gas crews are trying to be sensitive to motorists’ needs, Colon said. “We try not to block any roads in their entirety,” she said. However, the workers need clear work zones to complete the project. “There will still be areas where it slows down a bit,” Colon said. The city is just trying to make the projects as painless as possible. “From our perspective, we want to get them in and out as quickly as possible, so the impact to the citizens and the traveling public is as little as possible,” Fawcett said.  

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 job is treatment with a purpose,” Nerad said. “I have a reason to wake up in the morning, shower and show up.” Nate Kehlmeier, who works for Midwest Recovery, shared a similar story of addiction and second chances. He grew up in Genoa and was a clean kid. His uncle was mayor, his mom served on the school boosters, his neighbor was on the police force. At age 20, he had a great job, good paycheck, nice apartment, a car and a girlfriend. At age 21, he dislocated his ankle while playing basketball and was prescribed Vicodin. “That feeling the opiates gave me took over everything,” Kehlmeier said. “I wanted to feel this way every day the rest of my life.” He had three doctors prescribing opioids for him. “I was walking around high all the time.” He started buying Oxycontin – three a day at $50 each. “All my money went to that,” he said. It wasn’t long before Kehlmeier lost his job, apartment,…

Library hooks up with 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 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 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 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 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. “These learning modules support the majority of the occupations listed on the OhioMeansJobs List of In-Demand Jobs in Ohio,” according to Penrod. While someone can go on YouTube and find various instructional videos, there’s no telling how current, accurate or reliable those are, Penrod said. insures the quality of the courses and tutorials. Those who have LinkedIn accounts can even get certificates signifying they have taken a course on site. Penrod said the plan is to have a link on the library’s website by the end of this week. After the staff has a chance to acquaint themselves with what it affords, they will do a public relations campaign to let people know it’s available. That will include reaching out to companies through the Chamber of Commerce and Bowling Green Economic Development. While the array of what’s offered seems daunting, the offerings are organized by subjects and learning paths, Penrod said. And a user can always turn to the tutorial on how…

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 on the commission since 2011. “You’ve been so generous with your time.” Montague headed the Welcome BG Task Force, which puts an emphasis on local employment opportunities for legal immigrants, the mayor said. The effort is helping to meet manpower needs by “putting out the welcome mat.” During her time on the commission, Montague has been “impartial and compassionate” and has worked for “community harmony and well-being,” Edwards said. In accepting her citation from the mayor, Montague said, “I have a confession.” When asked to join the commission seven years ago, she had lived internationally for so long that she had to look up exactly what the Human Relations Commission was. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve,” Montague said. In other business, Edwards read a proclamation dedicating July as Parks and Recreation Month. He presented the proclamation to Parks and Recreation Department Director Kristin Otley and park board member Cale Hover. The mayor praised the parks and “vast array of recreational…

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 of the downtown really struck us. There’s a lot of work that goes into a downtown that works.” And they visited Simpson Garden Park. “That was a true community effort,” Vickers said. “That wouldn’t have happened without the community bonding together.” This is the second time Bowling Green has been named one of the state’s best hometowns by Ohio Magazine. The last time was 10 years ago. “I was so proud of showing all the things that happened in the last 10 years,” Chambers said. The magazine representatives met with Mayor Dick Edwards, toured the Ben Franklin store downtown, talked with then BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, and learned about the creation of the Four Corners offices. They also toured the Dream Cars museum, the Wood County Historical Center and Simpson Garden Park. They learned of the Not In Our Town movement, the community action plan, and teamwork by the hospital and university. “They got to see the best of everything,” Chambers said. While the…

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 of a building project, said Jones, who inherited the desire to create from his dad. “I did like to build things,” he said. “My father was an electrical engineer. It’s been an interesting and challenging profession to be involved in.” This year looks to be a banner year for Poggemeyer. Unlike 10 years ago, when the company had to downsize because of the poor economy, the last three to five years the firm has been in growth mode. “Our volume of business this year should be the highest in the firm’s history” – bringing in more than $30 million, Jones said. “It’s a good economy today, so that’s helped.” If all goes well, the future will hold many more projects – big and small. “We hope to continue growing,” Jones said. As a 50th anniversary gift to the Bowling Green community, Poggemeyer Design Group donated the design services for the new Wooster Green area, at the suggestion of engineer Troy Sonner. “It’s a great thing…

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 weather the tough times. Owning the building is also important. Craft who worked for WT Grant before opening the Bowling Green store, has seen a lot in his 62 years in business from hula hoops to Beanie Babies. Nothing, he said, compare to the Beanie Baby craze. The Ben Franklin store would sell $25,000 in Beanie Babies in a day. Craft’s daughter, Amy Craft-Ahrens who was working in Chicago at the time, gave him a heads up on their growing popularity. They sold so many, Craft said, when Craft-Ahrens returned to Bowling Green to start For Keeps, they were able to pay for the inventory for the new shop. But the craze had its drawbacks. Craft said he remembers collectors fighting in the store over Beanie Babies. When Princess Diana died and a memorial Beanie Baby was created with each store allotted only a dozen, Craft didn’t want to deal with the frenzy, so he donated them to the American Cancer Society, which sold them…

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 keep names on the waiting list. The Stadium View 50th celebration will be held in the complex party room, both inside and outside. There will be scrapbooks of old photos, local pizza, High-Flying Hotdogs, cake, and jazz music by the BG Big Band. The Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce will hold a business after hours at the complex from 4:30 to 6 p.m. “Everyone’s invited,” Holley said.

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 has started to exceed its limit of 75,000 gallons a day. Portage has its own wastewater collection system that pumps as far at the city lines at Dunbridge and East Gypsy Lane roads. The town also has a company that wants to expand its use of the wastewater system, so increased capacity is needed Portage Mayor Mark Wolford said. The new contract would double the gallons per day to 150,000. The village will pay about $74,000 a year to Bowling Green. Portage officials will discuss the contract soon.

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 on in the future,” Gottschalk said. In order to promote manufacturing jobs to young prospective workers in Wood County, the economic development office is holding its second annual Manufacturing Camp this summer. The students will work with people from NASA, Penta Career Center robotics, and First Solar. The kids will also tour four local manufacturing plants: Owens-Illinois, Lubrizol, Home Depot distribution center, and Northwood Industries.