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Bath High School alum is an example of the OEA & AEDG focus highlighted at August 10 Economic Development 6-Month Update at the City Club

Washington D.C. based communications strategist kglobal is the latest member of collaborative economic and workforce development initiative

Story by Nick Kellis, courtesy of the Heartland Image Foundation


LIMA – Matt Wise wants to have a career in Lima.

Matt Wise internship at the Lima Husky Refinery

Wise, 23, graduated from Lima Bath High School in 2012 and is studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toledo. He currently has an internship at the Lima Husky Refinery. Photo courtesy Mindy Wise.

Wise, 23, graduated from Lima Bath High School in 2012 and is studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toledo. He currently has an internship at the Lima Husky Refinery.

Bucking a stereotype that young Lima natives want to get their education then dash off to a bigger city, Wise hopes to get hired by Husky and make a career – and a life – in his home town.

“I’m hoping to get hired by Husky. I really like it there,” Wise said. “But even if they don’t hire me, I hope to stay around with one of the contractors like GEM Industrial (The Rudolph/Libbe Companies), RMF Nooter or engineering firms like Nexus Engineering, Jacobs Engineering or RDS. I’d like be hired by one of them, but stationed in Lima.”

“You know how the world is anymore. Everything’s going crazy,” Wise said. “I see a lot of my friends still talking about moving, but there’s a lot of other friends that want to stay local.

“A lot of people want to chase money. You get paid money, but living expenses are a lot more (in bigger cities),” Wise said. “A lot of other engineering students I talk to come back from co-op (internships) with a pretty brutal realization of what’s out there. Everything’s more expensive.

“You can always go visit bigger cities,” Wise said. “And with social media and the internet, I don’t really feel like I’m missing anything.

“If you can bring more opportunity here, if you can build the community up, bring in more businesses and jobs in a place where family and community is strong, that’s the environment I hope to build a career in and raise a family in.”

That’s exactly the attitude the Allen County Economic Group (AEDG) and its Link Lima workforce development framework, along with the Department of Defense’s Community Assistance Program hopes to cultivate, with the Allen County project, funded by an Ohio Economic Adjustment Grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment and the DOD.

“If we want to stop the decline of population in Lima Allen County and the region, we’ve got to figure out ways to get people to stay here or come back here, taking the jobs that are available,” said Lima native Cynthia Leis, the Project Manager for the D.O.D.’s Community Assistance Program.

“We want our community to be resilient,” Leis said. “When a prospective corporation is considering coming in to our region, or one of our local companies grows, we want those companies to know they have a solid community to rely on.”

On Wednesday, August 10, the third of an ongoing series of Economic Development 6-Month Community Updates will take place from 4 – 5 p.m. at The City Club presented by AEDG, including updates on Link Lima strategy and OEA projects from consultants Future iQ and kglobal.

Washington D.C. public affairs and public relations firm kglobal will be recognized as the next partner to join the effort, to oversee a comprehensive communications strategy that includes an outreach campaign to DOD interests, national and international supply chain businesses and the perception of Lima Allen County to the world, as a destination to live, work and thrive.

“Our third stakeholder meeting on August 10, we’re going to go through the social network mapping and determine where we may need to create some focus groups,” Lies said. “At the same time, we’re going to have kglobal doing the communications plan. And so communication will be a major part of what we’re doing here, to create an even more resilient community.”

Leis said perception on the internet is a priority. “If you’re a person from outside Lima Allen County and you don’t really know much about this community and you Google Lima Allen County, there are a lot of different messages you get about who we are and what we do,” she said.

At the June 15 stakeholder meeting, Future iQ Research and Development Specialist Dr. Jeffrey Sachse presented detailed Network Mapping analytics, that around 200 Lima Allen County business and political leaders have already contributed data to. Progress from that meeting will also be presented at the Wednesday, August 10 meeting.

At the June 15 stakeholder meeting, Future iQ Research and Development Specialist Dr. Jeffrey Sachse presented detailed Network Mapping analytics, that around 200 Lima Allen County business and political leaders have already contributed data to. Progress from that meeting will also be presented at the Wednesday, August 10 meeting. Photo courtesy Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

“And so if we’re all on the same page together, where we’re all putting out the same type of content, no matter what site or what platform an individual will go to, they’ll say ‘oh, I see that Lima Allen County is thriving. They have jobs, they have innovation within their industry base and their professional base.’”

“kglobal’s going to scan the county and whole region as to what messages are being put out about Lima Allen County. They’re creating a ‘findings report’ and will come back with recommendations that we’ll use to develop a communications plan,” Leis said.

“We want to get the message out. We know that we have assets here. And maybe we are not yet collectively putting that message out to people that are looking at Lima Allen county and the region,” Leis said.

“If we’re trying to attract a worker to the hospital. And that worker is going to bring a trailing spouse, and a family, we want them to feel that this is a community that they can live in, work in and love being a part of.”

The OEA grant has several goals that ultimately focus on strengthening Lima / Allen County as an attractive industrial destination for both Department of Defense and private industrial contracts and interests. International economic development strategy firm Future IQ came on board in May, to advise the integration of the local economic growth plan, towards a national and international impact.

Leis said: “We have determined that our businesses are not talking to one another. So we’re not getting critical information from our businesses and we know they’re having challenges with workforce, or infrastructure or, say, finding new property.

“So there are common needs among the business and industry in our region that we can address, if we can get those companies together and start working out the problem.”

At the June 15 stakeholder meeting, Future iQ Research and Development Specialist Dr. Jeffrey Sachse presented detailed Network Mapping analytics, that around 200 Lima Allen County business and political leaders have already contributed data to. Progress from that meeting will also be presented at the Wednesday, August 10 meeting.

“One of the reasons we want to do all this analysis,” Sachse said, “is when you consider a lot of the issues about work force, economic growth, community inclusiveness, we tend to have a lot of pre-conceived notions of ‘what’s wrong’ because it’s ‘what we hear’.

“If all we do is make decisions based solely on intuition, there are things we might miss because we don’t see the overall picture. And there are other important players that we might not bring to the table because we don’t talk to them.

“So what we’re trying to analyze for each individual with a stake in community is ‘how am I connecting to other people to get things that I need, that I can’t do myself.’

“What the network map does is show you what other businesses in the region are doing and give you a way to connect to those businesses and explore those opportunities,” Sasche said.

“If I’m a new business owner or I have a new idea, this shows me that there’s a market in place for me to open that business and see more immediate success, because I know there are people out there that are looking for what I have to provide.

“You may be sitting next to a gold mine you may not know exists. It may be in this room (at The City Club). When you come to the stakeholder meetings and participate in the surveys, now you know that there’s a market for what you’re interested in selling, or making or doing.”

“And the more that we talk together about these issues – and the numbers form the basis of that conversation – the better solutions we’re going to come to,” Sachse said.

More stakeholder meetings will follow throughout the year, as program initiatives are put into action in the Lima Allen County community and surrounding region.

Find out more about the next OEA Stakeholder meeting and other OEA/AEDG initiatives at visit future-iq.com »

The Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, Allen Economic Development Group and the Lima-Allen County Convention and Visitors Bureau announce the launch of its newly revamped website. This newly redesigned website is a one-stop-shop online resource to market the assets of the Lima/Allen County Community.

Lima Chamber, AEDG and CVB announce launch of newly revamped website WeAreLimaAllenCounty.com

Staff Reports
news@the419.com

LIMA  – The Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, Allen Economic Development Group and the Lima-Allen County Convention and Visitors Bureau announce the launch of its newly revamped website. This newly redesigned website is a one-stop-shop online resource to market the assets of the Lima/Allen County Community.

The website WeAreLimaAllenCounty.com features videos of members in our community discussing why they chose to stay in Lima/Allen County, locate their businesses within our region, and what visitors to our area can experience in Lima/Allen County.

wearelimaallencounty.com features an extensive list of all the food options in Lima/Allen County.

The revamped website features an extensive list of all the food options in Lima/Allen County.

“This website encompasses everything all three of our organizations try to do, all in one unique website. The video testimonials give a great perspective as to what makes our community strong, why visitors should add our community to their ‘must-see’ destination list, and why others call our area home,” shares Christine Pleva, Executive Director, Lima-Allen County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“We are proud to announce we are launching into year three of the interactive video website WeAreLimaAllenCounty.com. It is our hope that site visitors will continue to use this as a resource to learn more about the strength of our community, through our businesses, resources and people,” stated Jed Metzger, President and CEO of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce.

Things to do in Lima Ohio

A list of things to do in the Lima/Allen County area are featured on WeAreAllenCounty.com

Jeff Sprague, President and CEO of the Allen Economic Development Group explains, “We saw this as an opportunity to expand outside just showcasing our traditional infrastructure and resources and really show why a potential site selector should choose to locate in Allen County – whether it be the quality of life the community has to offer, or access to business resources.”

The website has been updated with a new layout for year three. The Quality of Life section will have a new video of Lima/Allen County that features aerial footage of the community and a few of Lima’s favorite things. The new layout also consist of different categories that have been turned into a rotating grid like format. The grid features Eat, Shop, Stay and Play in the Things to Do category. Here you will find a dining and shopping guide, accommodations, and entertainment/things to do. Business & Industry has also been transformed into a grid like format that features Work Here and Made Here. This grid features all the different manufactures in the community and directs you to the career portal of their websites. The Made Here section displays what is made in Lima/Allen County! We are proud to live in Allen County! There is so much to discover about our community!

For additional information on the community website WeAreLimaAllenCounty.com please contact Nicole Scott at 419-222-6045.

In collaboration with Allen Economic Development Group (AEDG), the multi-phase OEA grant has several goals that ultimately focus on strengthening Lima / Allen County as an attractive industrial destination for both Department of Defense and private industrial contracts and interests.

OEA, AEDG continue efforts to make Lima/Allen County competitive in changing global marketplace

Story by Nick Kellis
Photos by Jay Phillips, The Heartland Image Foundation

LIMA – On Wednesday June 15, the second of an ongoing series of Lima / Allen County Stakeholder meetings took place at The City Club as part of the Allen County project, presented by Future iQ and funded by an Ohio Economic Adjustment Grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment (Dept. of Defense).

Part of the Allen County plan for Collaborative Growth involves bringing together employers and leaders in the community to create a united front that builds on area strengths. Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

In collaboration with Allen Economic Development Group (AEDG), the multi-phase OEA grant has several goals that ultimately focus on strengthening Lima / Allen County as an attractive industrial destination for both Department of Defense and private industrial contracts and interests.

“What’s really important, in any region that’s based on manufacturing, is really you have to have the ability now to be resilient, to be flexible, to be ready to respond,” said David Beurle, CEO & Founder of Future iQ, a management consulting firm chosen from a lengthy selection process to steer the effort to build a stronger, more vibrant economy in Lima / Allen County.

“You also have to anticipate the trends that might be coming, good or bad, and be able to position yourself to minimize the negative impact on the regional economy, while you maximize the beneficial impact,” Beurle said, at the first Stakeholder meeting on May 17.

“Our job is to help the Lima community organize itself for the future. To be competitive in a changing global marketplace,” Beurle said.

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

That first Stakeholder meeting on May 17 launched Phase Two of the Allen County project. At each Stakeholder meeting, the crowd of area business and political leaders are engaged and made a part of the problem-solving process, led by Director of Allen Economic Development Group, Jeff Sprague, Project Manager for the D.O.D.’s Community Assistance Program, Cynthia Leis and Future iQ’s Beurle. More Stakeholder meetings will follow, throughout the process.

“Each of these Stakeholder meetings is very important because, in today’s global economy, it really comes back to local community involvement,” said Jeff Sprague Director of AEDG. “There’s change that’s constantly happening around the world that affects us here in Lima / Allen County. You can either help facilitate that change, or you can be run over by that change.

“The critical piece of what we’re doing here in Lima / Allen County is, we’re in front of that change,” Sprague said. “Now we’re providing a road map, to show local businesses how to be proactive, versus reactive.”

Part of the Allen County plan for Collaborative Growth involves bringing together employers and leaders in the community to create a united front that builds on area strengths.

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

“We identified a list of about 400 stakeholders in our community that have some relationship to economic and workforce development” said Cynthia Leis, Project Manager for the Ohio Economic Adjustment program that funds the project.

“Allen County received the grant because of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, but the intent is really to implement programs for the community,” Leis said.

“So we went to our top employers in the area, then we went to some smaller businesses we were able to reach through our Chamber of Commerce. We also looked at the AEDG board, the Visionary board, the Downtown Lima board and a variety of organizations associated with workforce development,” Leis said.

“I look at Allen County, I look at a lot of diversity among our industries and also the other professional services we have,” Leis added. “With our hospitals and our banking, our CPA and insurance firms, it’s a very diverse community.

“So the intent of the grant is to help with workforce development for all those Allen County industries and services, then retain that workforce, to support that diversity.”

The May 17 meeting outlined the transition from Phase One to Phase Two of the Allen County project and highlighted the go forward plan for the next year and beyond, explaining how collaborative efforts now are essential for long term manufacturing and economic growth in the community.

The June 15 meeting introduced Future iQ Research and Development Specialist Dr. Jeffrey Sachse, whose specialty is the detailed and layered Network Mapping analytics that around 200 Lima / Allen County business and political leaders have already contributed data to.

Said Sprague: “One of the things that came out of these first two Stakeholder meetings is we know we have great businesses in Lima Allen County and the region. So the Network Mapping will give us the data to measure and ask ourselves, ‘Are we moving in the right direction? Are companies succeeding? Is there growth and is there job creation happening?’

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

“Then we can use those benchmarks to address how we can now put together some of those partnerships and relationships, to help grow the network,” Sprague said (specifics on how Future iQ’s Network Mapping will seek to connect a variety of regional manufacturing and support services, for a more robust economy, will be profiled in a second article to follow for the419).

“What you have here is you have a very strong network of leadership,” Beurle said. Future iQ works with communities around the world, so its CEO offers a truly global perspective as to why Lima / Allen County can prosper in an ever-changing global marketplace.

“A lot of communities can’t work together. That’s not the case here,” Beurle said. “Through our Phase One analysis we came to realize there’s a core group here and they’re very well connected and very motivated.

“We’re working towards expanding that in Lima / Allen County and the region. We want to make this a very big and robust network. Smart, ready to respond, agile. And I think you have all the elements here for growth and success,” Beurle said.

Said Sprague, “Companies are telling us that Lima Allen County is on the right track. But we also know that we’ve got to grow, from a community standpoint. When you bring in external resources to help you look at things, it gives you a little bit broader, little bit different perspective on how to do that. That’s what we get with our Future iQ partners.”

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

Photo: Jay Phillips, Heartland Image Foundation.

The next Stakeholder meeting will take place on August 10, also at the City Club. Sprague, Leis and Beurle hope for a similar turnout for that and future Stakeholder meetings, in the months to follow.

Said Beurle, “Future iQ, our specialty is about getting ‘future ready’. There’s no point planning for today’s world when the world is changing so fast. We have to anticipate: what are the types of industry and the types of jobs that people will be wanting in five, 10, 20 years? Where are the coming opportunities?

“Thinking about the future and saying ‘OK, how do we redesign our strategy today, so in five or 10 years we’re ready to attract new businesses and the community can thrive.’”

For more information about how the OEA Grant, Future iQ and Allen Economic Development are working to create an Allen County plan for Collaborative Growth, visit future-iq.com/project/task-force-lima/.

The Stakeholder meetings are being videotaped as part of an In-Kind donation from Lima’s Heartland Image Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that specializes in media education and production of HD video content for the community and donates time and technology to archive positive arts, educational and public service events in the Lima / Allen County area.

For more information about The Heartland Image Foundation and how you can support their mission to create professional, quality HD content that promotes positive messages and enhances the image of your community, visit heartlandimage.org or The Heartland Image Foundation on Facebook.

Photo courtesy Link Lima/Makerfest Lima, Ohio.

MakerFest showcases four women welders adding a much needed lift to the manufacturing talent pool

Lima/Allen County looms large as skilled trade job generator – and it’s women stepping underneath the hood to help the local workforce needs


Story by Doug Arthur
Allen Economic Development Group

Lima, Ohio, is clearly a manufacturing town. Sure, there are lots of other kinds of businesses in Lima and Allen County, pretty much what you’d expect from a Midwest town with a growing population of 103,000 – healthcare, retail, financial services, energy, food service, education, and the public sector. Plenty of choices.

But manufacturing is at the heart of this little pearl of a city in the middle of the Heartland that’s home to big-time operations – Procter and Gamble’s liquid detergent plant, Ford’s F-150 engine plant, and the U.S. Army’s M1A2 battle tank factory. And dozens of other manufacturers of all kinds and sizes, offering a terrific, affordable quality of life to the people who call Allen County home.

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But there are some holes in the workforce. There are certain jobs that the employers of Allen County just can’t seem to find enough qualified people to fill. For one, in Lima, there’s a real shortage of welders. There just aren’t enough qualified local welders to meet local demand – immediate, near-term, or projected.

At Diamond Manufacturing of Bluffton, welders fuse together steel racks for auto industry customers such as Ford, BMW, Honda, and GM. The need for skilled welders is constant, says General Manager Gene Heitmeyer.

“Business is good,” Heitmeyer said. “We’ve been growing at a terrific pace, and our workforce is almost 500 percent bigger than we were four years ago. But to continue this kind of growth, we need more qualified welders, a lot more.”

And he’s tapped out the typical sources.

Enter Sierra, Brooke, Tashara, and Tracey.

These four girls have several things in common. They are all energetic, outspoken young ladies who attend various west central Ohio high schools. They are graduating this spring, and they are all eagerly studying to be welders.

Oh, and one more thing: they’re good at welding. Really, REALLY good.

Sierra Mark, Brooke Brown, and Tashara Mays at Makerfest 2015, Lima, Ohio's new career expo showcasing manufacturing and the skilled trades.

Sierra Mark, Brooke Brown, and Tashara Mays at Makerfest 2015, Lima, Ohio’s new career expo showcasing manufacturing and the skilled trades.

At MakerFest 2015, Lima, Ohio’s new career expo showcasing manufacturing and the skilled trades, three of the girls – Sierra Mark, Brooke Brown, and Tashara Mays – drew big smiles by sweeping the welding competition. These ladies – each from a different career tech school – took first, second, and third place ahead of dozens of male competitors.

Ironically, none of the girls seemed to think their winning performance was that big a deal.

“I’m the least creative person I know – I can’t draw at all. But, when it comes to welding, I can actually make stuff. And I love it,” said Sierra, a senior at Apollo Career Center in Lima and the MakerFest 2015 gold medal winner.

Brooke from Vantage Career Center and Tashara from Lima Senior High agree.

“I didn’t really know I liked welding until I started doing it and discovered I was good at it,” Brooke said.

“When I got a set of LEGOs as a kid, that was the best thing I ever got… and now I feel the same way about welding!” said Tashara.

And then there’s Tracey Long, an 11th grader at the Elida High School. Tracey secured a special grand prize of her own while at MakerFest – she got a job offer from Diamond Manufacturing. Heitmeyer offered her a welder position after she graduates from high school.

Makerfest 2015 in Lima Ohio

Tracey Long from Elida High School.

Tracey says she’s definitely excited about the offer. But first she says she wants to weld for the military. She has her eye on the US Air Force, and is considering training for a highly specialized underwater welding gig that can easily pay $100k+ income for a top-shelf performer.

Not bad for someone right out of school with no college.

These four girls would clearly be career anomalies, except they are not alone. Girls are beginning to discover welding as a possible career pathway more and more every year, with impressive results.

Gary Cearns, the welding instructor at Lima Senior High School, says that his girl students demonstrate strengths he often doesn’t see in their male counterparts. “In my teaching experience, females in high school display higher maturity levels than males.”

And that higher maturity makes for a better worker, says Cearns. “Girls typically work more meticulously and complete the program at higher levels than boys.”

But enrollment by girls in high school welding programs is nowhere near what it needs to be to make a dent in industry demand. At Lima Senior, Cearns says the enrollment in his school’s welding and metal fabricating program is only about 10-percent  female. And he’s tracking the female welder percentage for the entire industry overall at only about 5-percent.

A big part of what is still keeping girls away from the welding torch is the legacy misperception that all “factory work” is performed in filthy, unsafe environments.

According to Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), this is simply not the case – in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“Many view manufacturing jobs as dark, dirty and dangerous, a caricature of what they were decades ago. Such perceptions could not be further from the reality of today’s industry,” he wrote in his article Manufacturing the next generation: how to teach millennials to make things in the United States.

“Manufacturing is sleek, it is high tech, and it is exciting.”

So what can we do to change this misperception and get more girls interested in welding?

If the experiences of Sierra, Brooke, Tashara, and Tracey are any indication, the answer is pretty simple. Remove the inappropriate stigma by making it a group activity at school. Put a welding torch in their hands, and let them try it. Odds are that a large percentage of the girls will discover that they really enjoy welding. And that, not unlike Sierra, Brooke, Tashara, and Tracey, they are really, REALLY good at it!

If that isn’t enough to bring the girls to a welding career, add the facts that welding is eager to accept girls as well as guys, does not require a college degree, has endless career paths, can include incredible world travel opportunities, will always be in demand, and has the ability to generate the salary of a doctor or lawyer.

Those girls are quick studies. Some of them will give welding a shot. And America’s future will glow as brightly as the welding torch in their capable hands.