Featured News Archives for 2015-09

The economic outlook for Hardin County has improved in recent months. International Paper has doubled the size of its cup-making facility in Kenton and created many jobs.

The economic outlook for Hardin County has improved in recent months. International Paper has doubled the size of its cup-making facility in Kenton and created many jobs. Sekisui has opened is plastics parts plant in Kenton with more jobs being available. Ada Technologies is adding to its payroll at the automotive parts maker.

The county’s unemployment rate is between four and five percent. But there are still people who need help finding employment, said Jon Cross, president and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

To meet the professional needs of the work force, the Alliance is partnering with Hardin County Job and Family Services, the Ada Area Chamber of Commerce and Ohio Means Jobs to sponsor a Job and Career Expo on Friday in Kenton.

Doors open at 9 a.m. in the community room at the Jacob Parrott Safety Center (sheriff’s office) on South Main Street, where 30 businesses will be on hand to interview prospective employees.

There is an eagerness to hire, said Cross, based on the positive response from the business community to plans for the expo. But he said it is more than just a job fair. The expo also can be a learning experience.

For many the process will begin the day before the interviews, said Director Barb Maxson of Job and Family Services. Her office will be open until 4:30 p.m. Thursday to help applicants with their resumes and coach them on how to improve their chances of securing a job. Job coaches will give advice to the workers on the hiring process, said Terry Hites-Suter of JFS. This service will be available to the general public, as well as veterans and those with jail or prison records.

The jobs offered will not be only factory jobs, said Cross. Employers from the medical, banking, government and other professions will be seeking employees. There are positions available for part-time and full-time employees on hourly rates or salaried positions, he said. There is no charge to employers or job seekers to attend the expo, said Cross.

The success of the expo at this stage is a testament to the cooperation between the sponsoring agencies and others in the county, said Cross.


The $70 million expansion of the Kenton International Paper plant was celebrated Monday with a ribbon-cutting and a ceremony. Cutting the ribbon is Kenton Plant Manager David Mulligan (center).

Company executives and politicians were on hand to open the expansion of International Paper’s Kenton facility Monday morning, but it was the 650 employees who were in the spotlight. The company announced 19 months ago it would double the size of its Kenton facility and create 125-plus jobs for the Kenton area. Monday’s ceremony celebrated that accomplishment.

Company officials cut the ribbon on the new 250,000 square-foot addition which represents a $70 million investment in the community. International Paper President and CEO Mark Sutton told the crowd in the new meeting room at the plant the disposable cup industry is expanding due to a change in the way Americans live. Grabbing a cup of coffee for the drive to work or getting a cold drink with a fast meal has become part of the U.S. culture, he said. “This product helps that business model,” said Sutton.  

IP produces fiber-based hot and cold cups, food buckets, containers, plates and lids for several fast-food restaurant companies. The increase in demand brought the IP executives to realize they needed to expand their production line and in searching for a location for that expansion, Kenton made its way to the top of the list, the company president said. It was the strong support and the “can-do” attitude that got the attention of the executives, said Sutton, but it was the success of the workers in the Kenton plant that sealed the deal. The workers in Kenton had already been the first IP plant to produce many of the items which had brought success to the company.  

“You made our decision for us,” said Sutton.  Any company can provide equipment to help make a project successful, he continued, but it takes quality people manning that equipment to make the difference in the product.
“To make this all work takes all of you,” he told the employees who filled most of the seats at the meeting.
Making the Kenton expansion a reality was made possible through the partnerships between the company and the county, city and state developers, said Sutton.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was one of several political leaders who addressed the employees of International Paper at the opening of the expansion of the Kenton facility. The dedication of the workers was recognized as the main reason the company chose Kenton for the investment of $70 million in the plant. “I know Ohio workers can compete with anyone in the world,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. He vowed to continue to fight on the floor of the Senate for fair trade agreements to keep American competing on a level playing field.

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta said the Kenton expansion was the result of everyone working together, but would not have been possible if not for the workers at IP and their reputation for quality. “The number one reason (the plant is here) is you,” he told the workers. “The reason people want to put businesses here is the work ethic of our people.  This wouldn’t have happened today without you.”He noted the location of the plant will not only benefit Kenton and Hardin County, but neighboring counties who will send workers to the renovated facility.

International Paper is relying on the history of the Kenton workers to prove their investment was a wise decision, said Sutton.“We are counting on that winning spirit in Kenton to make this a success,” he told the workers.


Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor and Sekisui Japan President Masato Kashiwabara cut the ribbon Wednesday morning in front of some of the mold presses at the new Seikisui Plastics plant off U.S. 68, just south of Kenton

Lt. Governor on hand to welcome Japanese plastics business to Hardin County

When the people of Japan say “good morning” to their friends, they use the word “ohio” and on Wednesday, Hardin County said “ohio” to their new friends from Japan.  A large crowd of guests from Hardin County, the state of Ohio, including Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, and from Japan met at the new Sekisui plant south of Kenton to commemorate the opening of the plastics parts manufacturer’s new American plant. When he greets his friends in Japan in the morning, said Sekisui Japan President Masoto Kashiwabara, he will think of the people in the company’s newest plant in Ohio.

The Sekisui company has been producing plastics products for 55 years with the company’s home located on Osaka, Japan. In 1964, said Kashiwabara, Sekisui opened a plant in Pennsylvania. While that plant failed to meet the company’s expectations and was closed, it was the first Japanese manufacturer to open a plant in the U.S. Soni was the second, the president said.

Under the guidance of then president Keizo Ono, Sekisui adopted a 100-year strategic plan for the company which included returning to the global market. In 2007, the company opened another American plant in Tennessee with positive results. The new facility was so successful in such a short amount of time, continued Kashiwabara, that it needed to build a second plant in the U.S. to meet the demands of its American customers.

Thomas Pontiff, President of U.S.A. Sekisui, as company executives attempted to locate the best location for such an expansion two years ago, they drew a circle around a map of northern Ohio, southern Michigan and northern Indiana. Kenton was within that range and a visit to Hardin County convinced the executives they had found the ideal location.“We were welcomed with a can-do attitude and open arms,” recalled Pontiff.

Economic Development Director John Hohn worked closely with the company executives, Jobs Ohio and other organizations to make the move into the plant owned by Steve McCullough become a reality. “John did a lot to make it possible for what is happening today,” said John Cross, President and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance. Addressing Hohn personally, he said, “You worked hard to make this a monumental success for the community and for your career.”

Kenton Mayor Randy Manns also congratulated Hohn on his work on securing the new business for the city in an atmosphere where “everyone worked together.” “You picked the right place and the right location,” said Manns. “I ask God to bless your company.”

The $5.2 million facility will begin operations next week with 50 employees, said Pontiff. It is the third Japanese-owned business to locate in the county. The nearby Durez plant is now owned by a Japanese company, as is Ada Technologies.

The Sekisui company met with state and local authorities at the plant Wednesday morning to thank them for their assistance in the process. Lt. Governor Taylor welcomed Sekisui Plastics to Ohio. She had been a part of the efforts which made it possible for the company to locate in Kenton, Taylor said.

The Japanese manufacturer was facing issues with regarding the use of boilers. The problem was a hurdle, but Taylor, through the Common Sense Initiative, was able to review the regulations which were outdated and offered the legislature changes needed to remove the obstacles. “Thank you for believing in Ohio and for believing in our people,” Taylor told the Sekisui leaders. “I think we will make you proud as you expand with opportunities in Ohio.”

Wednesday’s ceremony was a bit of a homecoming for one of the officials. Ono, who had been president of the company from 2004 to 2014 and now works as a consultant, shared with the large crowd he had first come to America as an engineer in 1987. He learned about the U.S. while employed at a business in Troy, Ohio. He was the first Japanese worker in the plant and was made to feel welcome by his co-workers and the residents of western Ohio, Ono said. “Things changed,” said Ono. “I could have easily called Ohio my home. Now I call Ohio my home away from home. I love Ohio and look forward to many future visits.”


In a collaboration designed to benefit women and the community, Hardin County hosted its first Women L.E.A.D. program on Wednesday evening at the Kenton Elementary School.

In a collaboration designed to benefit women and the community, Hardin County hosted its first Women L.E.A.D. program on Wednesday evening at the Kenton Elementary School.

About 85 professional women attended the event, the first of its kind in the county, to encourage them to build relationships and leadership skills. It is supported by the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

It is the brainchild of Christina Cross and Jesse Purcell. Cross, an attorney, said since moving to Kenton from California a year ago she has missed not having a strong women’s organization. Purcell, while she knows people in neighboring counties through her role as community manager for the American Cancer Society, said she doesn’t know many professional women in her own county.

Chris Burns-DiBiasio, director of community relations at Ohio Northern University and a member of the Alliance board, told the women that by joining together “we hope to have a greater impact on the leadership landscape of Hardin County.”

Guest speaker for the inaugural program was Tracy Stuck, assistant vice president of Student Life at The Ohio State University. It was a homecoming of sorts for Stuck, whose first job was at ONU in the admissions office. She later become director of student activities and assistant director of the McIntosh Center. Stuck called it a “dream job” and she worked in admissions under former President Dr. DeBow Freed. “I never worked for someone with such high standards,” she said. At ONU she learned the value of being a “Jill of all trades.” In cold weather, she drove a university van around town to take students to ONU. “I got to do it all since I started in Hardin County,” Stuck said. Had she started at Ohio State, “I probably would have been pigeon-holed” in a job. She said in a small county, people know you and what you’re doing. “It’s harder to be a leader in Hardin County.”

However, Stuck told the women, “If you manage your brand well, people will see your strengths and seek you out.” One problem she has noticed is women don’t support women enough. “You have to understand the power of support and connectivity,” Stuck said. “I say there’s value in getting to know people.” Stuck said she learned many valuable lessons from Dr. E. Gordon Gee while he was president of OSU. One of those is about the random person.

She said Dr. Gee, who was known for engaging students on campus, once told her, “Tracy, there’s 50,000 people on this campus and I don’t want to see anyone twice,”

Stuck said, “It’s great to hang out with people you’ve never met before. You’ll learn a lot from them.” She encouraged the women to develop a personal leadership style. “Know who you are and be proud of it.” Stuck told them being a leader is stepping up when needed to solve problems. She knows that firsthand and is credited with galvanizing support for construction of the Ohio Union at OSU.

She advised the women to take on something outside their comfort zone and don’t be afraid to fail. “That’s how you grow,” she said. Stuck predicted, “You will gain great friends in this organization.”


The new organization Women L.E.A.D. was introduced to the community Monday at a press conference at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance office in Kenton.

The Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance wants to assist professional women in the community through a new program unveiled Monday. Women L.E.A.D. was founded by co-chairmen Christina Cross, a local business attorney and educator and Jesse Purcell, Community Manager for the American Cancer Society. They hope to bring opportunities to women in the area to network, collaborate and meet other successful women through a series of events.

During a press conference in the Alliance conference room, Cross and Purcell said they had discussed the need for an organization in which women of all ages and experiences could encourage and support each other in a professional setting. They worked through the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance to create Women L.E.A.D. “Women Leading Women Forward.”

The L.E.A.D. stands for “Leadership through actions; Embracing and encouraging personal growth; Advancing career opportunities and Developing strategic relationships.” The new logo, designed by Ohio Northern University student Rebecca Carman, was presented during the conference.

The organization’s first public gathering will be its kick-off event on Sept. 30 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Stephen McCullough Conference Room at Hardin Memorial Hospital. The guest speaker will be Tracy Stuck, vice president of student life at The Ohio State University.

Any woman member of the Alliance is automatically a member of Women L.E.A.D. This concept is new to Hardin County, but is not a new idea, said Chris Burns-DiBiasio, director of community relations at ONU and member of the Alliance board. “The conditions and times were right (for this organization),” Burns-DiBiasio said. There are many talented women in Hardin County and many are in leadership roles within the community, she said. Women L.E.A.D will give those women an avenue to network resources, share experiences and broaden discussions which might never happen outside that environment. “This is a chance for women to connect and that is something that women do really well,” Burns-DiBiasio said. “This is an idea that is ripe for this time.”

Women L.E.A.D. can be used as an educational tool, added Stephanie Jolliff, ag teacher at Ridgemont High School. Many high school girls think there are no professional opportunities for them in Hardin County. This organization will open communications to encourage them in their chosen fields, she said. “This program could serve as an open door,” said Jolliff. “It can have a ripple effect for years to come.”

“Any woman can be a mentor to other women,” said Cross. “We want to reach out to women of all ages.”

New friendships and partnerships will be formed through the organization, she said. It is up to the leaders of Women L.E.A.D. to make sure those relationships take place.

“We want to help women become innovators and leaders of the community,” said Wendy Rodenberger of Hardin Memorial Hospital.

Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance Director Jon Cross noted there are already many women in business throughout Kenton and Hardin County. This new program is a way to assist them professionally.

Prior to the press conference, Cross announced, Women L.E.A.D. had been endorsed by Jenny Craig. The founder of Jenny Craig, Inc., issued a statement in support of the new organization. “As one who has promoted the advancement of women both in health and business my whole life, I applaud your efforts at bringing women together in support of each other,” wrote Craig. 

“Women are the hardest working people on the planet,” Cross said. “The diversity we need in Hardin County starts with a group like this. Hardin County would not be who we are today without women leaders of all ages.”