An improving economy was cause for celebration at the Williams County Economic Development Corporation annual banquet, March 7.
Director Matt Davis talked about the local growth and the organization handed out some well-deserved awards to various companies and a community. Special Guest Speaker Jon Husted talked about his successes as Secretary of State in making Ohio a great place to do business.
Husted, who is rumored to be a likely gubernatorial candidate, talked for 20 minutes and gave a rousing speech. If it is wasn’t a formal announcement for higher office, it was a good practice run for when he does so.
WEDCO is growing as well with the hiring of a second full-time employee, Megan Puehler, who brings a set of skills that benefit the organization, Davis said. The website has been overhauled and the organization’s social media presence has become “robust,” he said.
Membership has doubled since 2014 and is on track to show a net gain again this year.
Davis said he has sat down with the owners of local companies where got to hear what was on their minds. He is seeking out new ways to promote workforce development, he said.
The long-awaited countywide wage and benefit survey is nearly complete, Davis said.
“We actively market Williams County as a place of investment,” Davis said.
The call for entrepreneurs was made by the director as they are the engines that help drive growth. The membership’s role in WEDCO’s success is paramount, he said.
“We need you now more than ever,” Davis said. “You let us know what’s working and not working.
“The pipeline is full of opportunity. I expect a very busy year.”
Husted, a Montpelier native who has risen through the ranks of state-elected office to Secretary of State, spoke about his successes in reforming the way the state deals with business and his memories of growing up in Williams County.
Several members of his family from the area were in attendance, Husted said. He recalled memories of filling potholes for a couple of summers for the county road department.
“It’s always great to be home,” Husted said.
He acknowledged that he has been contemplating a run for governor, but said an announcement is still a couple of months away. He has visited nearly every county in the state since the first of the year and normally has to explain where he grew up.
“I don’t have to do that today,” Husted said, prompting raucous laughter from the crowd.
Husted’s comments focused on his achievements in eliminating red tape and roadblocks to prospective businesses in the state and he touched briefly on his duties of overseeing the elections. The latter is what people primarily understand as his role, he said.
under his watch, his office has set a record for business filings, five years in a row.
As for his comments, he spoke about his efforts to ensure the integrity of the voting process by making it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
His first job was to correct the problems in the electoral process.
The office has eliminated 540,000 repeat voters and 1.6 million duplicate voter registrations, Husted said. This keeps people from voting in Ohio and in other states, he said.
His office is also getting rid of deceased voters from the rolls as well as non-citizens voting.
“We want to make sure our elections are done with integrity,” Husted said.
That’s important as 112 elections in the state have been decided by one vote or tied, since he’s been elected.
But it’s economic development that occupies the most time of his office staff, Husted said. His office is the first place people go when they want to start a business, he said.
When he took office in 2010, the staff told him how things worked. That included several forms to fill out which took four days to process at a cost of $125. If the applicant needed it sooner, rush delivery cost an extra $100.
When he brought up having applicants complete their forms online as other states had done, he was told “Oh, we can’t do that.”
Husted said he suggested just starting out with the most commonly used form, the response was that would eliminate the need for expedited delivery and the loss of fees would impact paying for the office.
So the system was automated and when the day of the big announcement came, a lady from
The switch to the online system has led to the creation of 268,000 businesses, Husted said. He said the state has set a new record for filings for five years in a row.
“That’s a 30 percent increase every year,” Husted said. “January of this year was the best month we’ve ever had, because we made it more customer service friendly.
“We cut the time and we cut the cost.”
What had taken four days on average now takes four hours, Husted said, explaining what regulatory reform means. People the office has spoken to have conversations of less than an hour, he said.
Through the process of attrition and early buyouts, Husted said he has cut the department’s workforce by one-third in the last six years. The savings have led to a startling decision.
“Now we aren’t even going to need tax dollars to run my office the next two years,” Husted said. “That’s not some phony-baloney government accounting trick
“We don’t need it; we are that more efficient,”
As state spending has risen by 17 percent over the past six years, the Secretary of State has reduced its spending by 16 percent. Filing fees for businesses have been cut to $99.
“So we could be the lowest cost state to do business,” Husted said. “That’s regulatory reform, that’s being business friendly.
Not everyone was happy with Husted and the union started a work slowdown to protests the loss of jobs. The work they performed at the call center was put up for bid and the union did not even bid, he said.
As a result, the Cleveland Center for the Blind got the bid with the promise of better customer service at $100,000 less per year, including longer hours in the week, Husted said.
The number of calls handled went from 8,000 per month to $12,000. The average time for calls went from 10 minutes to 34 seconds, Husted said.
“They (CCB) are thrilled, people who didn’t have jobs and have opportunities in life, now do,” Husted said. “They have dignity and hope and a better life.”
The key to success is by finding out how to be more competitive, Husted said. Becoming more customer friendly led his reforms in his office. Others have to find their edge, he said.
The business community’s priorities have changed over the years. Where it used to be about reforming the tax code and tort rules, the focus is now on talent. The jobs are out there, but companies can’t find anyone to fill them, Husted said.
There are challenges up ahead for Ohio. It’s the 47th oldest state, the 35th most educated state over the next 10 years the state will lost 250,000 employees from the working age workforce.
He got to the winning formula he spoke of earlier as a strategy developed to thwart this trend. His earlier comments came from a business point of view, but he switched gears to speak from the worker’s point of view.
“Since I graduated high school here, the average take home pay in Williams County has dropped by 27 percent,” Husted said. “The statewide average is (down) 17 percent.
“The average Ohioan hasn’t made as much as the average American since 1971.”
The wage drop means less money for a house, car, groceries or utilities, Husted said.
“The people feel the American dream is eroding on them,” Husted said. “They feel like their future is not as bright as their parents.”
Since the Great Recession, all the economic growth has happened in 15 metropolitan areas, Husted said. “Rural America has been hit harder.”
The winning formula is getting businesses the talent they need and people the better paying jobs they want, through training people with the skills they need, Husted said. The problem is society is not training nor preparing children for the challenges they will face after high school, he said.
If the kid aren’t job ready or house ready, he asked “What are you doing?”
With the fact that 80 percent of people live within 50 miles of where they graduated from high school or college, the best way to spark growth is through a STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) education, Husted said.
While he doesn’t like where the state is trending, he believes this is still the best time to live in the world in history. A person can succeed by remaining strong on faith, family, vocation and community, he said.
“We have to step up and do our part,” Husted said.
In other news:
Two new members were elected to the WEDCO Board of Directors, Edgerton Village Administrator Dawn Fitzcharles was named vice chair and Stryker Fiscal Officer Beth Rediger is the new 2nd vice chair.
WEDCO handed out awards to:
VRT (new business of the year), owned by Alec Lee.
VRT launched as evening work in a small one-car garage. Within six months, growth afforded VRT the opportunity to lease a 6,000 square-foot location in Archbold. In the summer of 2016 VRT moved to Bryan.
Since moving to Bryan, VRT has added 10 employees during peak season and expanded its customer base. During 2016, it purchased a 34,000 sf building, a 26-foot box truck, a fully equipped spray paint booth, a new sales car and a forklift.
VRT provides low cost manufacturing services for local companies.
“Our offering includes a wide array of services including assembly, disassembly, wood cutting, quality inspection, plastic cutting, gluing, machine stamping, rubber stamping, foam applications, bagging and kitting and spray painting,” Lee said. “Our services help to drive continuous improvement initiatives in their facilities. Additionally, we have identified ways to meet our customer demands while providing a pleasant and flexible atmosphere for our workforce to enjoy. The result has been triple digit year over year growth that creates jobs.”
The Small Business of the Year went to Daavlin. Dave Swanson is the president and owner.
The medical device manufacturing business began in 1981, and now has 62 full-time employees,
Daavlin is a dermatology company manufacturing products used to treat photo-responsive skin diseases such as psoriasis, vitiligo and scleroderma. Daavlin sells in all 50 states and about 70 countries around the world.
In 2016 the company won the President’s E-Star award in recognition of 10 consecutive years of sales growth in international sales. In late 2015, the phototherapy center at John’s Hopkins University Hospital was named for Daavlin in honor of its contributions to their dermatology department.
Daavlin has increased employment by more than 50 percent in the last two years.
20/20 Custom Molded Plastics received the Large Business of the Year Award.
The company experienced a nearly $20 million expansion in 2016. It has 140-190 full-time employees.
Sales increased 9 percent in 2015, 7 percent in 2016, and projects an 18 percent increase for 2017.
The company supports local schools, athletics, charities, and civic organizations such as Relay for Life, Montpelier Bean Days parade, United Way, Montpelier Civic League Casino Night, and hosted a food drive for the Helping Hands Food Pantry.
Edgerton was named Community of the Year.
The village was commended for applying to be removed from fiscal emergency only 3 1/2 years after the state imposed it. The Village concentrated on decreasing fixed operating costs and audited revenue sources for complainant accounts. The change in business practices is what assisted in terminating the fiscal emergency in a shorter time than originally forecast.
The village has been concentrating on funding capital and infrastructure needs such as, purchasing a new electric utility bucket truck, a 4.4-acre tract of land to enhance the 80-acre Miller Park, Ada Parking lot updates to the town hall and ADA paving updates at Miller Park.
The Police Department received a utility cruiser and the fire department added water rescue capability equipment and safety turn out gear.
Covington Box moved to Edgerton– mid-year 2016 – company has a proven track record of excellence in the packaging industry.
Received and accepted Phase 2 of the Al-Phine hills development, a 20-lot residential development. Includes a 9-acre commercial site
The Village hosted many events such as the Chamber 2016 Homecoming, and the 2nd Annual Business & Industry Show.
James Pruitt may be reached at email@example.com