By: Bill O’Connell
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
On Friday, April 22, 2016, the Swanton Chamber of Commerce (SCC) hosted a meeting of local business and community leaders with LuAnne Cooke, the Northwest Ohio Regional Liaison for Governor John Kasich, to discuss areas of concern within the local business community. In addition to Ms. Cooke, the meeting was attended by Neil Toeppe, Executive Director of the SCC, Kevin Thornton, CEO/CFO of Scottdel Carpet Cushion, Rick Lederman, CEO of Soaring Software Solutions, Lisa Mitchell, CEO of Swanton Health Care, Norm Zeiter, President of Swanton Welding, Matt Gilroy, Executive Director of the Fulton County Economic Development Corporation, Rosanna Hoelzle, Swanton Village Administrator and Bill Rufenacht, Fulton County Commissioner.
The initial purpose of the meeting was to introduce Ms. Cooke, who was recently hired and has seventeen counties included in her area of responsibility, to the Swanton community and Fulton County and to give her a better understanding of what is going on in the area. Soon after the meeting began the discussion evolved to a focus on problems related to the local work force such as finding enough qualified individuals to fill open positions or sometimes just finding enough workers in general.
“One of the businesses said they go through an employment agency and for every ten temporaries they bring in they are only able to hire one,” related Mr. Toeppe. “It’s because they can’t come in or don’t show up for work or go home for lunch and don’t come back or they do not pass the drug screening.”
Another company representative spelled out their reasonable employee expectations in very basic terms. They want someone who will show up every day, be on time, are willing to work and are not afraid to get dirty. And, even though they will provide all necessary training, they still have a difficult time finding people.
Another issue that all the businesses expressed concerns with was the lack of training in the high schools. The Village of Swanton is currently dealing with that problem first hand as they try to find qualified individuals to work in both the Water Treatment Plant and the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Ms. Hoelzle and Mayor Roth are working on a presentation for local high schools to encourage students to consider those types of jobs as a career choice.
The meeting lasted approximately two hours and left a very favorable impression on Ms. Cooke. “I thought the meeting went well. It was very productive,” she said. She was also surprised but very impressed at the same time to find out that three of the four businesses represented at the meeting were headquartered in Swanton but were also players on the global stage, servicing clients internationally. “You have a lot of business warriors in Swanton,” Ms. Cooke added.
To help address the labor force issues Ms. Cooke passed along a name to Mr. Toeppe of a representative for Governor Kasich who deals with work force problems. She said she will have him contact Mr. Toeppe to arrange a follow-up meeting with other Swanton business leaders.
Bill O’Connell may be reached at