Wood County Economic Development Commission

Charter Steel – maker of giant ‘Slinkies’ – is county corporate citizen of year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Tucked away in the southeast corner of Wood County is manufacturer making giant rolls of steel rods. “Many of you’ve seen our product. They look like ‘Slinkies’ in the back of trucks,” said Brian Holzaepfel, operations manager of Charter Steel. Each of those “Slinkies” weighs between 4,500 and 5,600 pounds. The company, located off U.S. 23 near Risingsun, has been named Wood County Corporate Citizen of the Year for 2019. The company, which moved to Wood County in 2000, was recognized during the annual dinner meeting of the Wood County Economic Development Commission Thursday evening. Wood County Economic Development Commission dinner meeting Charter Steel first moved here to set up a distribution center in order to better serve its customers in the Midwest with just-in-time deliveries. But it has become so much more, Holzaepfel said as he accepted the award. As of last year, the Charter Steel location in Wood County had 130 employees working in the 365,000 square foot plant. The site processed 512,097 tons of steel, and shipped 201,954 tons of the steel rods. “The continued drive for growth is very apparent in the Charter Steel company,” Holzaepfel said. The local facility is equipped with a chemical cleaning line, mechanical descaling, annealing furnaces and wire-drawing equipment to clean, anneal, draw, coat and distribute hot-rolled coils from Charter Steel’s rolling mills. When introducing the company, Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw noted the firm was a fourth generation privately held company. Established in 1936, one of the company’s founders was instrumental in creating Frigidaire, the first self-contained refrigerator. “They have always been a forward thinking company,” Herringshaw said. Charter Steel The company has revenues exceeding $1.1 billion, and employs more than 2,150 people in 11 locations. Charter Steel is known for placing great trust in their employees, and not requiring them to punch a timeclock, she said. The company is the leading producer of wire rod in the U.S. “We are a growth organization with a strong emphasis on customer intimacy and employee engagement,” Holzaepfel said. The company has a philosophy in teamwork and trust, and invests in ideas presented by employees. “We empower them so they can make changes and have an impact.” Charter Steel also believes in safety, one of the company owners stated in a video shown at Thursday’s program. “We want every worker to go home the same way they showed up for work,” he said. Charter Steel Since 2006, the company has invested more than $950 million into its plants. Last year, the…


$250 million logistics park, 2,000 jobs proposed near CSX hub

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News When the CSX Intermodal facility opened eight years ago west of North Baltimore, it brought with it the promise of luring other development. On Tuesday, a couple consultants for NorthPoint Development, in Kansas City, presented a pitch to the Wood County Commissioners about doing just that. Dave Robinson told the commissioners that NorthPoint is interested in forming a public-private partnership to help develop acreage bordering the CSX Intermodal facility. The area has room for “tons of growth” on 122 acres. That growth could mean up to 2,000 new jobs plus tax benefits for the region. But in exchange for the construction of a logistics park, the developer wants a property tax abatement of 100 percent for 15 years, Robinson told the county commissioners. NorthPoint has a great deal of experience working with intermodal partnerships, Robinson said. He noted some of the company’s existing developments in Kansas City and Rickenbacker near Columbus. The open acreage on the south side of Ohio 18, by the local CSX site, is ripe for placement of distribution and manufacturing facilities, Robinson told the commissioners. And NorthPoint has experience building “major big box state-of-the-art facilities,” he said. The acreage has room for more than 4 million square feet of building space, Robinson said. “It would be a large driver of economic development,” he said. “We think it will be a great opportunity.” A growing trend nationally is the need for distribution centers, Robinson told the commissioners. Ten percent of purchases in the U.S. are now made online. That number is just going to grow. “We see the growth of logistics and fulfillment as a very big trend,” he said. That is creating concerns for traditional malls and retail centers, but, “it also creates a massive opportunity,” Robinson said. And the location right next to the CSX Intermodal facility will be ideal. The site is also near Detroit and Chicago, right next to the Interstate 75 corridor, and close to the Ohio Turnpike. “We are believers in the economic benefits of the logistics industry,” Robinson said. The proposed logistics park by the CSX facility has the potential to create 2,000 jobs, he said. The jobs at the distribution centers built near Rickenbacker come with an average annual wage of $57,100, Robinson said. Though NorthPoint would insist upon the maximum tax abatement, Robinson said the firm realizes that local governmental entities need to see some tax revenue from the development. So the company is discussing some different options of how to make sure local entities aren’t…


BG, county need to present ‘welcoming’ face to attract workers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News A few years ago it was the lack of jobs in this region that was troubling. Now it’s the lack of people to fill the jobs being created here. So Bowling Green officials are looking to team up with Wood County to attract immigrants and millennials to the region.  Last week, the two entities discussed how to compete to attract those workers. “Employment issues are still top of the line,” said Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. “It’s an issue we’ve all heard a million times.” “The labor pool has shrunk a lot in Northwest Ohio,” and the population is aging, Gottschalk said during a meeting of the economic development commission on Wednesday. “We just need more bodies,” he said. Sue Clark, Bowling Green’s economic development director, hears the same concerns. Jobs Ohio recently released statistics showing 9,200 jobs available within a 20-mile radius of Bowling Green. “Where will the people come from to fill these jobs,” she said. Clark has listened to the worries of small “mom and pop” shops and of large manufacturers. “We all know this is a very serious issue.” The headlines look great – about new companies moving into or expanding in the region. But the reality is that some of those new jobs siphon people away from existing businesses – which may lead to their closings or moving from the region. “If they simply steal employees from our existing companies,” without those workers being replaced by others, “none of us want that,” Clark said. So on Wednesday, Bowling Green officials shared their plan with county officials, in hopes that the entities could team up to attract workers to the region. Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards introduced the Welcome BG Task Force concept of attracting, supporting and maintaining a workforce – both skilled and unskilled. “We want to reach out and assist legal immigrants,” Edwards said. “America desperately needs more workers,” he said. Other cities have had success with such “welcoming” programs, like Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and Dayton, the mayor said. “The immigrant community has been such a huge driver for new small businesses and filling manufacturing spots” in those cities, said Margaret Montague, head of the Welcome BG Task Force. The U.S. Census showed Wood County’s population grew 3.65 percent from 2000 to 2010.  The number of youth and working age residents dropped by 3.8 percent. The number of those 65 and older grew 15.4 percent. “We’re growing grayer every year,” Clark said. So why not work…


Wood County manufacturing sees $750 million investment this year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Wood County saw $750 million invested this year in industries making fresh hamburger patties, glass for solar panels, auto parts and more. “That is a record as far as I can tell – and by a lot,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said Wednesday during a commission meeting. The investments spread from the far north to the far south of the county. West of North Baltimore, the NorthPoint Development Co. announced plans to construct a logistics development near the CSX rail hub. “There’s a lot to be done still,” but the project is progressing, Gottschalk said. And the CSX hub is also expecting to start doing more business, and serving a wider geographic area, he added. In the village of North Baltimore, Continental Structural Products is expanding its auto parts production. “They were slated to close during the recession, and they are now coming back with a vengeance,” Gottschalk said. The plant is on track to rival its highest production back when it was supplying parts for Fieros, he said. And just east of North Baltimore, the Equity Meats plant has made the shift from frozen patties to fresh hamburger patties. Anyone ordering a McDonald’s quarter-pounder in the Northeast U.S. will get a taste. “It’s coming from Wood County,” Gottschalk said. In the northern part of the county, NSG-Pilkington has secured all the necessary local regulatory approvals for its plant in Troy Township. The plant, which will manufacture float glass for the new First Solar plant, is expected to be in operation in 2020. “That’s a big project,” he said. The new First Solar plant in Lake Township is also progressing well. “It’s an absolutely massive facility out there,” Gottschalk said.. In Perrysburg Township, the expansion of the Walgreens distribution center is underway. The project is expected to create 350 new jobs. “It’s a big project and good for long-term,” he said. Retention visits from the Wood County Economic Development Commission have also found operations well at Biofit near Haskins, and Jerl Machine in Perrysburg. The O-I site in Perrysburg is “doing very well” and considering an expansion of its research and development area, with a focus on training. “Changing over from one thing to another is not a simple process,” Gottschalk said. Gottschalk reported to commission members that announcements of more investments in Wood County may be coming soon. “There are a couple other very large projects in the region,” he said. He also told members that he recently traveled with…


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…


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,…


Glass company named Corporate Citizen of the Year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Few people know what goes on in the huge, sprawling plant on the banks of the Maumee River in Rossford. But countless people around the world look at – or through- their products every day. Corporate officials have heard the plant referred to as “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory” because of its mysterious nature. But the magic behind the walls of NSG Pilkington was revealed Thursday evening when the company was named Wood County’s Corporate Citizen of the Year. 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. Todd Huffman, plant manager, accepted the Corporate Citizen of the Year award and talked about the float glass and advanced assembly plant that sits on 148 acres in Rossford. The mission of NSG Pilkington, the company’s current name, is to produce quality glass with world-class yields, he said. “We focus all of our efforts to satisfy our customers,” Huffman said. The company has 350 employees at its highly robotic Rossford plant, and another 120 engineers and finance employees at its Northwood location. Many of the workers are multi-generations of the same families. “We have an outstanding workforce,” he said. And the company has a great safety record, he added. “These are some of the best glass people in the world.” 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 newer uses for NSG Pilkington’s glass are found in electronics, such as touchscreens and TV displays, as solar panels, and as refrigerator doors. Since the high heat furnaces can’t be shut down, work at the Rossford plant goes on day and night, every day of the year. “We work around the clock,” Huffman said. Huffman said that he briefly left the company in 2012, but returned in 2015. “This is a company that really does the right thing for our employees, our communities and our customers,” he said. “I’m proud to say that I work there.” Huffman thanked the county economic development commission for the award. “It’s humbling. It’s much appreciated,” he said. And Wood County Commissioner Craig LaHote marveled at the success of the company. “It’s pretty amazing we have this in our backyard,” he said. In other business…


More jobs may be headed for Wood County – but are there workers to fill them?

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County has an enviable good news-bad news dilemma. The good news – Wood County is being eyed by companies that would create 1,400 new jobs here. The bad news – Wood County may have a hard time filling those jobs. Wade Gottschalk, director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, met with the county commissioners last week to give them an update on projects in the county. “We’ve been very busy,” he said. But the potential for so many new jobs has county officials worried about an unusual dilemma. With its low unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, that means there are just over 2,000 unemployed adults in Wood County. “Our current issue is workforce,” Gottschalk told the county commissioners. “It’s really a matter of we need people to move to Northwest Ohio.” The state overall is experiencing the same problem. “They are working to find bodies for these companies,” he said. Two of the biggest potential projects in Wood County are in the Perrysburg area. Gottschalk predicted those companies won’t have difficulty filling positions since they will be offering high-paying jobs. However, the new openings may drain employees from other lower-paying companies. “We’re going to work very hard on the backfill,” he said. Wood County benefits from having a variety of industries, such as solar, machine shops and robotics. “We have a very diverse base of companies,” Gottschalk said. The region’s low cost of living coupled with relatively easy commuting patterns help by drawing workers from a broader region outside Wood County. “It gives us a larger area to attract from,” he said. Gottschalk briefed the commissioners on the companies looking to possibly add jobs in Wood County. The Walgreens distribution center, at Ohio 795 and Oregon Road in Perrysburg Township, is considering an expansion that would add approximately 350 new jobs. “It would be a substantial investment,” creating good paying jobs, Gottschalk said. But Gottschalk cautioned that the expansion is not definite. “This isn’t a done deal, by any means,” he told the commissioners. Perrysburg Township Planning Commission has approved the site plan and variance for parking. If the project proceeds, the company will seek tax abatements, Gottschalk said. “They are basically in the decision mode, to see if this will work,” he said. If the expansion proceeds, “we would likely see dirt moved this year.” The city of Perrysburg is being considered by an unnamed company that would create 1,000 to 1,100 jobs and invest $900 million in the location. Also competing for the…


Study to see if sports complex could score big here

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Parents of young children often pack up the vehicles several weekends of the year to head out to travel ball tournaments. Local economic development officials want to see if they might be able to get a piece of that action. Four entities – Wood County Economic Development Commission plus the cities of Perrysburg, Rossford and Maumee – have invested $15,000 each to have a study conducted on whether or not this area could support a massive sports complex. “I think there is a demand,” said Wood County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Wade Gottschalk. “We all know parents who drive kids to tournaments every weekend. We want to see if there’s enough demand for something of this scope.” Perrysburg Mayor Mike Olmstead suggested the feasibility study after visiting the Grand Park sports campus near Indianapolis. That 400-acre facility includes more than 31 multipurpose and soccer fields, 26 baseball diamonds, and an indoor soccer and events center. “It’s a great idea,” Gottschalk said. That’s why experts in the field have been brought in to do impartial evaluations, he added. If the study finds that such a sports complex would be feasible in this area, then the next question is where, Gottschalk said. Some suggestions have been made that acreage in between Perrysburg and Bowling Green, somewhere along Ohio 25, would be considered. “But we’re not to that point yet,” Gottschalk said. Some signs point to a large sports complex being successful here, he added. There is ample open land, a large population, and good transportation access. “We’ve got better interstate access,” Gottschalk said. The study will look at the number of people likely to be drawn here for tournaments. “How much can we attract from the outside,” he asked. A local sports complex would benefit area residents by shortening their weekend drives to some tournaments. But the big win would be attracting business to the region from those families. “These tournaments draw thousands,” Gottschalk said. “You’ve got hotels being booked. You’ve got restaurants being used. You’ve got stores being shopped at. Those would be new dollars coming into the county.” Gottschalk doesn’t expect the feasibility study to be completed before the first of 2018.


Home Depot – big building, big workforce handle big chunk of dot-com sales

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Just about every detail of the Home Depot Direct Fulfillment Center in northeastern Wood County is massive. Walking around the perimeter of the store would put 1.3 miles on your pedometer. The site is staffed by 572 hourly employees and 68 salaried staff – all who wear the recognizable orange Home Depot aprons. The facility also uses about 45 contracted employees for services such as security and tech maintenance. Towering racks allow products to be shelved 33 feet high. Employees use 170 hydrogen fueled forklifts to move the items after customers order them online. On the average day, the facility in Troy Township ships out 28,000 to 30,000 units. That could be anything from a drill bit to patio furniture. The number of shipped units could jump as high as 70,000 on Black Friday. On this past Friday, the Wood County Economic Development Commission and Wood County Commissioners visited the vast Home Depot facility for the annual “state of business” tour. They learned that the distribution center grew a bit this year – adding 32,000 locations for different products to the 300,000 locations already existing in the facility. The company made a $4 million investment this year in fire suppression, electrical and expanded racking. And the local site saw its annual sales increase by 9 percent. The Home Depot facility, which sits in the middle of farm fields in Troy Township, handles 40 to 45 percent of the company’s dot-com business. Currently about 6.4 percent of Home Depot sales are online. Despite its mammoth size of 1.6 million square feet, the direct fulfillment center is quite nimble. Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, reported to the Home Depot officials that he recently ordered ceiling fans on a Tuesday, and they were delivered to his home on a Wednesday. Lance Hunt, general manager of the Troy site, said the facility works smart to speed up the deliveries. Items are “profiled” based on whether they are hot sellers, seasonal favorites, or on sale. Those items are then located closest to the conveyors. The company sells more than a million different items – from hammers, lawnmowers and grills, to faucets, garage door openers and toilets. Some of the bigger items include bath tubs, hot water heaters and refrigerators. The fastest moving product is consistently the big orange 5-gallon “homer” buckets, Hunt said. Most of the online orders are shipped by UPS and FedEx. About 40 percent of the online orders are picked up at the…


County hears pitch for business incubator to hatch inventors’ ideas

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A business incubator may be set up in Wood County to help local inventors hatch their ideas. The Wood County Commissioners heard a proposal Tuesday morning from Rene Polin, president and founder of Balance, a company that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality. “You can’t just be a dreamer. You have to be a dreamer with a business plan,” Polin said. And that’s where Balance would come in to the picture. “We want to bring our panache in the industry from Cleveland to Wood County,” Polin said. To do that, Polin needs some type of very basic workspace – something with office space, power and connectivity. “I know that sounds primitive,” but that’s all that’s needed, he said. The firm’s Cleveland space is an old factory building. The firm works with entrepreneurs, helping them assess their plans, fill out necessary paperwork, and determine if the project is worth their time and investment. After all, most inventors aren’t good business people, explained Doug Miller, of the Wood County Economic Development Commission which is working to bring Balance here. “They don’t have any idea how to run a business,” Polin agreed. “We bring the management acumen.” The business incubator can help entrepreneurs determine if there is a market for their product, Miller said. “People get focused on their invention,” but if the public won’t buy it, the idea isn’t going anywhere, he said. Sometimes, the dreams need to be tweaked. “We ask the hard questions,” Polin said. “We don’t kill the dream, but we change their idea of what their dream can be.” By using consumer research and focus groups, the incubator can help gauge the success of a product. The Balance firm has seen its own success – just by helping others achieve their dreams, Polin said. One such story is the Comfort Adjust Pillow that is currently being sold on the QVC shopping network. Several other ideas are being worked on now at the business incubator in Cleveland, including a pet grooming device. Polin said the inventor is being assisted with getting a patent, refining a prototype and testing it on different animals. The incubator also helps entrepreneurs decide if they want to produce the item themselves or license their creation to someone already in the business. Other inventions being tinkered with at the incubator now include a “super simple” non-powered French press for coffee. An Italian coffee company is looking at that, Polin said. Then there’s the digital app that helps get excess farm products…