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The Amazing Giants were a popular part of the annual Kenton Lions Club Christmas Parade. The stilted performers greeted the young people along the parade route and then stopped to pose for pictures at the newly-lighted courthouse during Tuesday’s parade.

The Amazing Giants were a popular part of the annual Kenton Lions Club Christmas Parade. The stilted performers greeted the
young people along the parade route and then stopped to pose for pictures at the newly-lighted courthouse during Tuesday’s parade.

Chairman of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance board Brandt Miller (left) introduces Holli Underwood as the organization’s new CEO and Director of Economic Development. Underwood replaces Jon Cross, who is stepping down to devote more time to being a state legislator.

Times staff writer

The Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance board announced Friday morning it has named Holli Underwood as its new CEO and Director of Economic Development.

The two positions opened when Jon Cross announced his resignation from them in order to spend more time as a state legislator. Cross will assist Underwood during a transition period.

“This is an exciting time,” Underwood said of her new job.

She said her first job will be to meet with board members and community leaders to develop a better understanding of what their hopes and expectations are from the Alliance.

“I want to uncover what works here and keep things positive in Hardin County so we can look for ways to improve and grow,” Underwood said.

She also plans to begin work on a new five-year strategic plan for the Alliance, she said.

Alliance board president Brandt Miller called Underwood an outstanding individual to step into the CEO and economic development jobs. A life-long resident of the county, Underwood has “expert communication skills and is passionate about Hardin County,” he said.

A graduate of Ridgemont High School and Ohio Northern University, Underwood has spent 13 years as the general manager of Allmax Software and is a partner in Underwood Stock Farms.

Her professional and personal background gives her experience in agriculture, technology, marketing, tourism, sales and leadership, said Miller.

The new Alliance leader is married to Assistant Hardin County Engineer Luke Underwood and they are the parents of two children, Allison and Lane, who are students at Ridgemont High School.

It also was announced Friday that Jacqualine Fitzgerald will continue in her role as community development director and will represent the Alliance on the Kenton Historical Courthouse District as the city continues with its revitalization plans. Jesse Purcell will remain the director of Chamber and Tourism and Chris Barker will continue as the office’s administration assistant.

The Kenton Historical Courthouse District prepares for another year of Window Wonderland and the Lion's Christmas Parade.

A group of volunteers decorated windows of Kenton storefronts Monday in preparation for the annual Window Wonderland displays. The Yuletide scenes will be revealed to
the public during the Kenton Lions Club’s annual Christmas Parade on Nov. 26. Pictured are (from left) Taylor Klinger, Charlotte Hamm, Cindy Martino, Jacqualine Fitzgerald, Judy Cross, Jason Winegardner, Robin Jones and Kenton mayor-elect Lynn Webb.

When the Kenton Lions Club Christmas Parade steps off at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, it promises to be the biggest yet.

Times staff writer
When the Kenton Lions Club Christmas Parade steps off at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, it promises to be the biggest yet.
Jacqualine Fitzgerald, Director of Community Development at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, said more than 3,000 people are expected to make their way to Kenton for the holiday event.
They won’t be disappointed as the number of floats expected will be more than 40 and additional Disney characters and other attractions have been added to the holiday fun, Fitzgerald said.
The Amazing Giants will return to this year’s parade, she continued, and they will be joined by six Disney princesses and nine Disney characters, plus a special holiday train ride which will be available to children after the parade.
Christmas music will be played from speakers throughout the square starting at about 4:30 p.m., Fitzgerald said. The lighting of the display around the courthouse will take place with State Rep. Jon Cross leading the countdown.
Santa will be available after the parade to hear the wish lists of young people.
People from throughout the area have found the Kenton Christmas Parade to be a holiday destination for the entire family, said Fitzgerald.
After enjoying the parade, many take in the 16 Christmas displays in the storefronts around the square, she said, and then stop by one of the Kenton restaurants for dinner before returning home.
“The parade really helps our local businesses,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s a pretty magical night.”

Kenton Parks and Recreation Board member Jesse Purcell reported to the Kenton Rotary Club on the board’s five-year strategic plan prioritizing Pioneer Park as a top priority for revitalization.

Kenton Parks and Recreation Board member Jesse Purcell reported to the Kenton Rotary Club on the board’s five-year strategic plan prioritizing Pioneer Park as a top priority for revitalization.

It was selected because of its strategic location as being a welcoming attraction on Franklin Street. Work has been completed by the Hardin County Young Professionals to improve the visual appearance of the park and donations are being taken to purchase new playground equipment.

Many generous businesses and organizations supported the effort of revitalizing Pioneer Park before Memorial Day including U.S. Bank, Modern Woodman Fraternal Financial, Hardin County Community Foundation, Stillwater Metal, Hardin County Young Professionals, Ken, Deb, Chase, and Courtney Doll, Liberty National Bank, sbhpp, Quest Federal Credit Union, Root Lumber, OhioHealth Hardin Memorial Hospital, and Nelson Insurance Agency

Purcell said anyone who would like to donate to the purchase of new equipment can send checks to the Hardin County Young Professionals in care of the Pioneer Park Project, 225 S. Detroit Street, Kenton.

John Metcalf, CEO of Mid-Ohio Energy, presents a check for $10,000 to Hardin County Economic Development Director Jacqualine Fitzgerald. The funding is to be used to develop strategic plans for each village in the county and the city of Kenton, said Fitzgerald. OHM Advisors of Columbus is being contracted to conduct the studies which are expected to give each community direction for development, she said. “I am excited to see what comes out of this,” said Metcalf. With them are Hardin County Commissioners (from left) Tim Striker, Randy Rogers and Roger Crowe.

John Metcalf, CEO of Mid-Ohio Energy, presents a check for $10,000 to Hardin County Economic Development Director Jacqualine Fitzgerald.

The funding is to be used to develop strategic plans for each village in the county and the city of Kenton, said Fitzgerald.

OHM Advisors of Columbus is being contracted to conduct the studies which are expected to give each community direction for development, she said.

“I am excited to see what comes out of this,” said Metcalf.

With them are Hardin County Commissioners (from left) Tim Striker, Randy Rogers and Roger Crowe.

Career talk
Times photo/Dan Robinson

Wade Rhoades of Ohio Northern University talks with a group of students during the Student Job and Career Fair at Kenton High School on Tuesday.

There were 29 businesses whose representatives talked to junior and senior students about their futures during the event, which is sponsored by the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

Students participating came from Ridgemont, Kenton, Hardin Northern, Riverdale, Ada and Upper Scioto Valley.

Financial objectives

Jesse Purcell, a member of the Kenton Parks and Recreation Board, outlines budget requests to help improve the city’s park system and swimming pool.
Times photo/Tim Thomas

Priorities for Kenton’s parks were discussed during a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner hosted by city leaders on Tuesday evening at Mid-Ohio Energy.

Jesse Purcell, a member of the Parks and Recreation Board, saluted all the volunteers, whether they have worked on the parks or in other areas of the city.

“I hope we can continue to count on you as volunteers,” she said.

Purcell said the board has created a five-year strategic plan for the city’s parks, but highlighted three priorities they want to address.

The No. 1 priority, she said, is Pioneer Park, located along East Franklin Street (Ohio 309).

“It’s a great place to start creating the atmosphere we want to share in our community,” Purcell said.

The board wants to remove unsafe playground equipment and broken limbs in the park.

They want to add mulch and flowers, plus maintain the existing historical markers. A goal for 2020 is to add picnic tables and trash cans.

Priority No. 2 is Glendale Park on the city’s west side, what Purcell calls “a forgotten park.”

She said they want to remove the unsafe playground equipment and target teenagers with the addition of a basketball court with hoops and possibly a volleyball court, along with picnic tables.

The municipal swimming pool is the third priority, with refinishing the bathroom floor the top goal.

That project is estimated at $12,000 to $15,000, plus the board wants to replace a lifeguard chair as well.

Those costs are part of a projected $30,000 in funds the board will be seeking from the city.

The rest of the money would be for park maintenance and new equipment.

Purcell said the parks and recreation board has received a $3,000 grant and has requests for another $2,000 in the works.

She said in order to attract new people to the city they need to have something to do. Improving the parks is a first step.

Building community and generating pride in the parks is a goal of the board, she said.

Ideas include creating a community of movement to provide a place in the parks for people to do yoga and Zumba.

Purcell they also have discussed creating themes in parks, possibly using animal figures to increase interest, not just from local residents, but people driving through the community.

While it may take time to make major park improvements, Purcell said, “At least we’d like to see Pioneer Park beautiful for the Memorial Day Parade.”

Times editor

It has been 55 years since a resident of Hardin County has served in the Ohio General Assembly. Jon Cross will change that on Monday when he takes the oath of office officially to represent the 83rd District in the Ohio House of Representatives at the statehouse in Columbus. But he shared the ...

Cross takes oath of office in front of large crowd of supporters

Posted on January 5, 2019


Pastor Jerry Cooke (top) delivers the closing prayer Friday during the ceremonial swearing-in of Jon Cross as state representative. The Kenton High School Top Twenty performed for the local event and the Kenton Junior ROTC presented the colors to start the festivities.

Hardin County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Barrett swears Cross into office as Cross's wife, Christina, holds the Bible. The official swearing in will take place Monday at the statehouse in Columbus.

It has been 55 years since a resident of Hardin County has served in the Ohio General Assembly.

Jon Cross will change that on Monday when he takes the oath of office officially to represent the 83rd District in the Ohio House of Representatives at the statehouse in Columbus. But he shared the experience with his supporters and family Friday afternoon at a ceremonial swearing-in event in the packed first-floor landing of the Hardin County Courthouse.

With the Kenton Top Twenty singing, the Kenton High School Junior ROTC presenting the colors and a large crowd looking on, Hardin County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Barrett administered the oath of office to Cross as Cross’s wife, Christina, held the Bible.

Barrett said it was an exciting day because a young Hardin County-ite was serving the community at the state level.

The judge assured the successful Republican candidate in the November election that his father, former county commissioner the late Jerry Cross, was “smiling down on this event.”

Jon Cross agreed and said he has been blessed to have parents who taught him the value of a public service.

“My parents taught me the importance of giving back to your community,” said Cross.

He told the crowd he considered it an honor to go to the statehouse to make decisions that will impact future generations, including his two young sons.

He shared that he had attended the orientation at the statehouse for new members and met Jon Cook, a Hardin County native and Hardin Northern graduate. He shared with Cross the fact that his grandfather, John Cook, had been the last person from Hardin County to serve in the statehouse in 1964. Cross said Friday’s ceremony was dedicated to the memory of John Cook.

Cross said he will represent all 120,000 people in the 83rd District and called it Team 83.

“You are all a part of that team,” he said. “Let us renew our spirit to public service.”

Cross said when he visited the statehouse for the first time as a representative-elect, he stood on the floor of the legislature and took in the experience.

“It was an awe-inspiring, humbling experience,” said Cross. “It’s a feeling I hope never goes away.”

Times staff writer


Sometimes landing a new business requires a lot of work and other times they come to you.

Jon Cross, president and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, said the latter is the case as of today.

He reported to City Council on Monday night that a man found an available building on U.S. 68 South while searching the Alliance’s website on Friday.

While Cross said he’s not in a position to announce the man’s name or his business plans, he said the man flew to Kenton and surveyed the town on Saturday and Sunday. He visited the Alliance on Monday to wrap up the deal.

Cross said he expects the business to employ 10 people.

There also was discussion of the city needing to do a better job of making water available to businesses on 68 South.

Prosecutor Brad Bailey said he recently learned that Graphic Packaging had to get a huge tank and fill it with water for its own water suppression system.

That’s because the city’s water does not support a high-flow head.

Water Plant Supervisor Dale Albert said the water dead-ends on U.S. 68.

Cross recalled that site consultants who visited the county four years ago said 68 South was “fatally flawed” because of its lack of access to high pressure water.

Chris Richards of Golden Giant said Kenton is in “an excellent spot logistically” for future business growth and he praised the good job being done by Kenton City Schools.

But he said, “In economic development, winners are the folks with access to services.”

Also at the meeting, council:

– Had first reading of legislation to vacate an alley that runs in front of Skinny’s Tavern on Steiner Avenue.

– Received a request to vacate an alley near 330 Grove Street. It was referred to the safety committee.

– Learned firefighters are checking and flushing hydrants on the city’s southwest side.

Residents many want to run the water before using it in case there is some rust in it, said Chief Tim Clark.

– Heard Cody Barker from the street department report city workers used the new road patching machine, the Duropatcher, to patch holes on both North and South Wayne Street. They are now moving on to other streets.

Times editor


Wes Goldsmith at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance
Wes Goldsmith at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance
Times photo/Ty Thaxton

Wes Goldsmith believes he is doing just what he was created to do: graphic design.

Since 2014, Wes has served part-time at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance and is currently the graphic designer and social media marketing coordinator.

His first graphic design project after graduating from Ohio Northern University was designing the logo for the Hardin County motto.

When Wes first went to ONU, he started in marketing but eventually moved on, feeling it wasn’t hands-on enough for him and didn’t offer him the creative freedom he desired, “and I guess I’m a creative guy.”

“I pictured myself doing something with my hands, and I feel like I can do that on my computer – I’m using a computer, but I’m also using my mind and I’m creating stuff, which is something I felt like I needed to do,” he said.

“And I wanted to stay close to Hardin County, because this is where my friends, family and church are; this is where I want to be.”

It’s difficult to find a graphic design job in Hardin County, Wes added, “and I was glad that Jon (Cross, HCCBA president and CEO) picked me up here.”

Wes designs and creates many of the graphics for the chamber’s social media and its emails.

He then sends them to Jesse Purcell, director of chamber and tourism, and Jacqualine Fitzgerald, director of community development, then the three will work together, “because they’re the ones who know their event and they know what they want to say.”

“We’re pretty busy doing other stuff, so I don’t have as much time to get on the social media as I’d like to, so everybody kind of does their own social media, but they work with me on it,” Wes said.

“If they need me to make something, I’ll do it.”

Wes loves working and living in Hardin County, he said, and through his work with the HCCBA, he believes he and his c-oworkers are able to help the community.

“I love the people here,” he said.

“I love that we get a chance to help this community get back on its feet. We’re not starting at the top by all means, but I think it’s cool we get an opportunity to help revitalize it. That’s what I love about working here and living here.”

But his job with the HCCBA is not the only place Wes gets to express his creativity through designing.

He and his brother Zac started their own small business a year ago called Log and Jotter (stylized as Log+Jotter), a pocket notebook subscription business.

“We design a different cover every month and we send it out,” Wes said.

“At this point in our business, we print 1,200 books. We started a year ago, and we’re selling to people all over the world.”

Each month’s notebook, Wes added, is only available to those who are subscribed, meaning certain designs can come to be high in demand.

“There’s people scouring the Internet for them – our first one was a plain one and they want to find that plain one,” Wes said.

Whether it’s through creating designs for the HCCBA, designing new notebooks for Log and Jotter or doing freelance design work – he is currently working on the Hardin County Fair logo with Kolt Buchenroth – Wes said he loves the satisfaction of building something on his computer and then printing it off and actually seeing it.

“There’s a satisfaction of working with your hands,” he said.

“I feel like God created everybody to work, and I feel like that’s what I’m doing when I’m doing graphic design – I’m doing what I was created to do.”

Wes attends church at Abundant Life Assembly of God in Kenton where his father James serves as pastor.

There, he sings and plays guitar on Sunday mornings for the congregation. On Sunday nights, he leads worship and sings and plays for the youth group.

On Wednesday nights, Wes can be found at the church with the youth group Royal Rangers, a class for boys from first to eighth grade.

There, he helps teach anything from how to tie knots, how to fish, how to camp, how to start fires and how to hike.

Thursday nights are spent getting together with the guys from church to play a sport, watch a sports game or go out to eat.

Every two years, that same group goes out west to go hiking.

Their first trip was to Deacon Lake in Wyoming. This year’s eight-day camping and hiking trip will be to Glacier National Park in Montana.

Wes added that during the warm months, he helps mow yards three days a week with Paul Miller.

He is also recently married to his wife, Emily.

Times staff writer

Check out these videos from our Student Job fair!







Program unveiled
Jim Wyse (right), of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, stands with Hardin Memorial Hospital Manager of Business Development Kim Reisinger (left) and Director of Chamber and Tourism Jesse Purcell at a banner announcing the new wellness program, Better You, Better Ohio. It is being offered to workers at small businesses throughout the state by the BWC.
Times photo/Dan Robinson

A new wellness program geared to employees of small businesses was unveiled for Hardin County on Friday morning at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Kenton.

The Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation created Better You, Better Ohio to assist workers throughout the state in dealing with health issues and living healthy.

It goes online on Feb. 1, said BWC Regional Business Development Manager Jim Wyse.

The staff at the state agency decided to use some of the BWC’s surplus funding and establish a program which would provide an incentive for safety and healthy decisions in the workplace, he said.

Studies have shown that people with heart disease are 23 percent more likely to file a BWC claim than those not suffering from the condition, Wyse said.

Workers suffering from depression are 25 percent more likely to submit a claim, while those with diabetes are 17 percent more likely.

Healthy You, Healthy Ohio also would assist with anti-smoking programs for workers, which is a significant concern at the agency, said Wyse.

The wellness program is geared to small businesses with 50 or fewer employees and is operated through the ActiveHealth company, which has 32 million subscribers nationally.

The company, said Wyse, works only with large businesses with 5,000 workers or more, but the Ohio BWC has worked out an agreement with ActiveHealth.

Ohio workers can join the program at no charge, he continued.

The BWC is targeting jobs in agriculture, automotive repair and service, construction, firefighting, health care, manufacturing, police and safety, public employees, restaurants and food service, transportation and trucking, trash collection, wholesale and retail.

The program is being funded for two years, after which it will be assessed for continuance, Wyse said.

After Feb. 1, when the sign-up information is posted online, workers can register to participate.

The first step is completing a health risk assessment and having a biometrics screening.

The screenings are expected to be made available through ActiveHealth at centralized locations, said Wyse, or can be scheduled at Quest Labs.

Once the registration process is completed, each enrollee will be paid $75, said Wyse.

Should concerns be noted on the screening, the employee can be coached to chance his health habits and after three months if he successfully completes the program will be rewarded with another $50.

Once enrolled, said Wyse, participants will have access to recipes for healthy eating and other suggestions for healthy changes.

Digital coaching can be made available.

The first question on the application will ask the applicant is he is involved in another wellness program.

If the answer is yes, the application process stops, he said.

“We are not trying to steal people from other programs,” said Wyse.

Hardin Memorial Hospital offers a similar program, said HMH Manager of Business Development Kim Reisinger.

“We are really excited about this program,” she said.

“We don’t feel like we are competing. Our common goal is to get employees feeling better.”

Jesse Purcell, Director of Chamber and Tourism at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, suggested workers could make participation in the program a competition or employers could reward participation with financial incentives.

“This program would benefit them greatly,” she said.

The website for the program is go.activehealth.com/betteryoubetterohio.

People can obtain more information by calling Purcell at the Alliance or Reisinger at the hospital.

Times staff writer


The Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance held their Annual Luncheon Thursday.


CEO Jon Cross spoke about how the chamber has over 330 members. He also talked about a new plan for a better and more streamlined approach to communications committees and membership by providing a Quarterly Breakfast Meetings.


The Hardin County Visitor's Guide Brochure is available at the chamber office and is a great asset to communicate with new businesses, visitors, and community.


The chamber is also seeking nominations for the Annual Awards Banquet. Nominations need to be submitted to the chamber by December 31st.


Looking like Christmas
Times photo/Dan Robinson

Carrying one of four wooden soldiers through the streets of downtown Kenton are (from left) Dan Evans, Jacqualine Fitzgerald and Frank Dudek as they decorate the square for the holiday season.

A lighted soldier was placed at all four corners of courthouse square as a part of the annual Christmas holiday display.

Wes Goldsmith and Jesse Purcell of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance hold copies of the new visitors guide developed by the Alliance’s tourism division.

New guide
Times photo/Dan Robinson

Wes Goldsmith and Jesse Purcell of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance hold copies of the new visitors guide developed by the Alliance’s tourism division.

The booklets were presented to the public at the Alliance’s booth at the Hardin County Fair on Tuesday and they feature attractions, recreation, antique and hidden gems, places to shop, places to stay and eat and key events throughout the county.

The guides are available at the fair booth or at the Alliance office in Kenton.



Alliance art showKenton Councilwoman Patti Risner (left) points out one of her favorite entries in the Discover Hardin County Art Show to Tourism Director Jesse Purcell.

Sponsored by the Tourism Division of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, there were 139 locally produced photos on display Wednesday evening at Table One in Kenton.

More than 7,000 people visited the Alliance webpage to view the photographs, said Purcell.

Voted as the top photo was a picture of the Hardin County Fair by Allison Howard. It will appear on the cover of the new Discover Hardin County Visitors Guide.

Times photo/Dan Robinson

Kenton residents are invited to learn about the city’s downtown revitalization plan during an open house Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Veterans Hall in the Hardin County Courthouse.

The program will be led by representatives from OHP, an architectural, engineering and planning firm which has been retained by the city for the downtown project.

Kenton, like many communities across the county, is built upon infrastructure that is nearing the end of its lifecycle. Aging storm, water and sewer lines – some of which are as old as the city itself – are in need of significant repair and replacement, according to a press release from OHP.

The city is in the process of preparing a plan to address needed capital improvements, while making sure it puts the streets and sidewalk back in a way that benefits the community, the release said.

“This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed,” Aaron Domini, principal planner with OHM, told the Times. Some of Kenton’s downtown infrastructure was built before 1900 and some buildings were built on top of it.

He called it “one of the oldest and most challenging infrastructure” the company has dealt with.

Domini said Wednesday night’s meeting will be divided into two parts. The first will be a presentation focused on the educational component of the project.

He said there is a lot to understand about the project, which he will attempt to clear up, as well as outline how it will benefit Kenton.

“First and foremost we are focused on fixing everything from the underground up,” Domini said.

The second half will entail a series of activities designed to get feedback on the downtown, including streetscape design and transportation issues.

He called the Kenton project a “carbon copy” of a downtown improvement project that is just wrapping up in Newark, east of Columbus. Newark has a courthouse on the square, similar to Kenton. Sewer separation was mandated by the Ohio EPA around the Newark square and a block off the square.

The cost of that project will end up at $25 million to $30 million. However, it has resulted in $80 million in private investment into the community, Domini said.

For the Kenton project, he said OHP will be looking to acquire funding from several governmental sources to go along with local funding to finance the project.


Young professionals from throughout Hardin County met to share information and ideas at the first organized meeting of the Young Professional Alliance on Thursday evening in Kenton.

The purpose of the gathering was to determine what the members see as the role of the new organization, said Jesse Purcell, Director of Chamber and Tourism at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

The professionals range in age from 21-45 and share an interest in improving the community.

“We have to stick together because we are going to be together for many years to come,” said Jon Cross, President and CEO of the Alliance. “It is important that we help each other out.”

The Alliance had seen the need for such a group in 2015, said Cross, and had invited a group of 35 people to help chart how to create a successful program. Thursday’s gathering, said Cross, was just the beginning. The Alliance is hoping to see membership flourish in the coming years.

Dustin McCullough said he thinks the young professionals should set goals and find new approaches to issues.

“The younger generation is more open to changes in the community,” he said. “As a group, I think we can accomplish our goals.”

The guests then divided themselves into small groups to determine what type of goals they should address. Their concerns often dealt with those younger than them and convincing them Hardin County has a lot to offer coming generations.

One of the problems in doing that, said Dane Jeffers, is the fact there are not many houses available in the county where they would want to live and no business space for investments.

“If you want the future to be better, we need to convince young people to stay here,” said Jeffers.

The county needs to be honest about the problems here, said others, especially the drug issue, but create activities to bring the community together.

Many expressed ideas on the future of the organization itself. The Young Professionals should meet on a regular basis and welcome others to join in their efforts.

“We are an organization which could mesh with Farm Bureau or 4-H and make both organizations better,” offered McCullough. “We want to make this organization something people want to be a part of.”

Citizen of year, community service recipient, businesses, others recognized at gathering

ADA — The Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance named Deb Curlis its Citizen of the Year Thursday evening during its annual meeting.

Curlis is the marketing and events coordinator at Community Health Partners in Ada, where she has been described as being an invaluable asset to her organization, said Jesse Purcell, Director of Chamber and Tourism in her introduction.

Curlis volunteers her time on several boards and committees including the Ada Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wilson Football Museum, Ada CIC, Richland Manor, Buy Ada First and the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance Chamber and Tourism Committee, said Purcell.

Curlis also serves as an Ohio Northern University Entrepreneur Advisor and the Ada Rotary secretary.

“To say Deb is a caring individual does not encompass the true compassion of her spirit,” said Purcell.

“Deb holds countless events throughout the year including Beacon of Hope, Festival of Trees, and several community garage sales and book sales to benefit Hospice and those in need.”

Curlis said she and her husband had lived most of their lives in Hardin County, but now live near Findlay.

She became active in the Ada business community shortly after accepting a position with Community Health Partners and joining the Ada Chamber of Commerce.

Her involvement quickly resulted in Curlis leading the organization.

Her goal, she told the crowd at the banquet, was to fill each storefront in the community and as she leaves office as chamber president, she has nearly met that goal.

She said she will continue to work with the chamber and place a new emphasis on home businesses in the near future.

“This means so much to me,” she said of being named Citizen of the Year.

“I have made so many wonderful friends here.”

The Alliance’s Business of the Year honors went to Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative.

The power company opened its new $7 million facility on Kenton’s west side earlier this year.

In her introduction of the company, Purcell noted the many ways Mid-Ohio serves the community.

It offers a large meeting room for gatherings and sponsors youth tours to Washington, D.C., to name a few, she said.

Being involved in the community is one of the goals of each of the electric cooperatives, said Mid-Ohio President and CEO John Metcalf.

Ten years ago, he noted, the company started Operation Roundup, which allowed its customers to round up their payments.

The added money was collected and presented as grants to worthy projects within the community, said Metcalf.

In those ten years, Mid-Ohio has distributed $400,000 in local grants, he said.

There are 24 cooperative energy companies in Ohio, he continued.

“We all try to give back to the community we serve,” said Metcalf.

“We are extremely honored to accept this award.”

Dave McPheron accepted the Community Service Award on behalf of the OSU Extension Master Gardeners volunteers program.

The Master Gardeners “literally changed the landscape of Hardin County over the last sixteen years,” said Purcell in her introduction.

“Evidence of their work would include Veterans’ Memorial Park, the gardens at Hardin Hills, the Herb Garden at the Hardin County Museum, Gene Autry Park, the sloping garden next to the Kenton movie theater and the Friendship Garden at Simon Kenton Harco Industries,” she noted.

“The Hardin County OSU Extension Master Gardeners volunteers program is a model of community service and the program is educationally designed to meet consumer horticulture needs,” Purcell said.

“The organization plans to continue growing and educating the community about plants and their care, along with the importance to the environment in the community.”

“It is a thrill to be here,” said McPheron in accepting the honor, “and get recognition for doing something we do for fun.”

The organization has 32 active Master Gardeners who enjoy sharing their love of horticulture with the public and answering questions about plants.

Without the OSU Extension Office and the tax levy which supports its programs, the Master Gardener program would not exist, said McPheron.

He thanked the community for its continued support of the extension programs.

The Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Iron Fit Gym of Kenton.

“Iron Fit Gym was established in August of 2015,” said Purcell.

“Over the last 18 months, they have invested over $100,000 in capital improvements to the exterior, interior, and equipment to build their business in a part of Kenton currently experiencing less economic development.”

Co-owner Amanda Crates-Bayliff said she joined owners Meg Manns, Joe Bayliff and Aaron Johnson to build the gym because they wanted to contribute something positive back to the community.

“They partner with the (Hardin County) Recovery Court to provide memberships to recovering addicts,” noted Purcell.

“Iron Fit Gym has hosted a 5k run in partnership with St. John’s, and hosted two powerlifting meets with an entry fee of a toy donation for Helping Hands during the holidays.”

“We are proud to be a part of what makes Hardin County great,” Crates-Bayliff said.

A new award was introduced Thursday which recognizes outstanding professional women.

The first Women L.E.A.D. Award was presented to Christina Cross for her work in helping organize the Women L.E.A.D. Program.

“Since Christina’s arrival in Hardin County,” said Purcell, “she has quickly become a mentor and community leader, sharing her insights in leadership, work ethic and vast national work experiences. Christina currently manages her own law firm, as a licensed business attorney to practice law in Ohio, California and District of Columbia. In addition, she is a Kenton High School teacher of American government and politics, mock trial and the Wildcat Community Connector Internship program.”

“I am very honored and touched,” said Cross as she accepted the honor.

She said when she moved to Hardin County, she saw the need for an organization to help professional women network with each other and educate younger women.

The Women L.E.A.D. Program is a response to that need, she said.

Times staff writer

County’s economy is strong and expected to get even stronger

The economic health of the county is good and on the threshold of setting records, according to Jon Cross, President and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

Cross was one of the presenters at the Alliance’s Economic and Community Development Breakfast on Friday morning at Henry’s Restaurant in Kenton. Community and business leaders filled the banquet room to hear an update on local development and the programs being offered to businesses.

The work force is estimated at 14,800 with 14,100 workers on the job, said Cross. That translates into an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.

“Basically we are at full employment,” Cross said. “Business is booming in Hardin County.”

He noted there have been no major layoffs of the work force. Plus businesses, such as Mid-Ohio Energy and Hardin Memorial Hospital, are expanding and investing in the community.

Cross also noted the announcement late last year that EverPower Wind Holdings LLC would move forward with developing 189 wind turbines within the county. That, he said, represents an investment of $300 million in the community.

A second wind farm is in development with a third on the wings, he said. Once the projects are all completed, there is the potential that the three energy producers will have spent $1 billion in the county.

Plans are in the making to develop the former Hardin Central School site in Kenton into a group of retail stores and there is some initial interest being shown by a company to move into the Kmart building after that stores closes in early March.

The Alliance is working to continue to strengthen the local economy through training programs for the work force and the development of opportunities for young people to secure professional training, said Cross.

The Student Job and Career Fair to take place next month at Kenton High School will connect students from across the county with at least 30 area business leaders.

“This is a great work force development issue we are launching,” said Cross. “If we don’t help provide good employees to you, our economy won’t grow.”

There is a need for commercial buildings, said Cross. Investors are looking beyond Hardin County because they are seeking “buildings ready to go.”

Hardin County Job and Family Services Director Barb Maxson said her agency is planning programs in partnership with Ohio Means Jobs to provide additional training to the work force. Some sessions are slated for next month during which JFS will meet with businesses in small groups to discuss what their needs are from the labor force.

“This is a very exciting time,” said Maxson. “We are all working together with the Alliance and the schools … We want to be where you go to when you need help to fill a position.”

There are work force training program funds available, she said.

“There are dollars on the table you can access,” agreed Cross. “Things are coming together.”

Later in the meeting, Steve Martin, dean of the Ohio Northern School of Pharmacy, gave an update on the university’s mobile clinic and introduced intern Colin Frank to share the advantages in using the school’s tobacco cessation program.

The cost of having employees who smoke, said Frank, goes beyond them missing work a few times a year. There is also the burden on employers to pay for the additional health care for those using tobacco.

It has been estimated that 30 percent of the county’s population uses tobacco in one form or another. The program ONU is offering increases the participants’ chance of successfully quitting smoking by ten times, said Frank.

“Or goal is to improve the health of Hardin County,” said Frank. “This is a tool for the community to help the community.”

Times staff writer




December 21, 2016

Alliance tabs Purcell to lead chamber, tourism programs

New director
The Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance named Jesse Purcell (center) as its new Director of Chamber and Tourism at a press conference Tuesday morning at its offices in Kenton. Purcell is a native of Kenton and familiar to the Alliance staff since she was one of the co-founders of the Women L.E.A.D. program. She is joined for the announcement by Alliance board chairman Brian Sprang (left) and President/CEO Jon Cross.

The Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance hired a friend to join its team of directors.

Jesse Purcell is one of the founding members of the Women L.E.A.D. program through the Alliance and will become its Director of Chamber and Tourism on Jan. 2. She replaces Annetta Shirk, who resigned from the Alliance to accept another job.

Alliance President/CEO Jon Cross said, during a press conference Tuesday morning, the board conducted an “executive search” to replace Shirk. It was searching for someone who expressed strong community values. He said they found that person in Purcell.

She is a native and resident of Kenton. She currently serves as a community manager for the American Cancer Society and the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer program.

She brings “nearly 15 years of experience in building successful fundraising campaigns, recruiting and retaining volunteers and stewarding strong business partnerships with career experience from the nonprofit, business and manufacturing industries,” Cross said.

“We are adding another all-star to the team,” he said of Purcell’s appointment.

“I am really excited about this,” said Purcell at the press conference at the Alliance office in Kenton.

The mother of a three-month-old son and a four-year-old daughter, Purcell said her children played an important part in her decision to return to her native county.

“I want to be a part of building a community where my family can grow up,” she said. “This job gives me a chance to stay closer to them, plus I look forward to telling everyone about the wonderful things happening in Hardin County.”

Purcell said she has ideas to present as part of the Alliance team and plans to “hit the ground running.”

“We believe she is the right candidate for the job,” said board chairman Brian Sprang. “We expect great things for 2017 and beyond.”

Purcell’s responsibilities will include overseeing the Hardin County Ambassadors, the Safety Council, Women L.E.A.D. Program and the Young Professionals Alliance.

“Great strides are being made in Hardin County and I feel fortunate to help advance these efforts through the important work being done at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance,” said Purcell.

Times staff writer


December 10, 2016

Alliance Announces New Initiatives For 2017

KENTON, OH - Hardin County Chamber & Business Alliance President & CEO Jon Cross announced two new initiatives for 2017 during the Alliance Christmas Luncheon.  The organization will develop a student focused job and career fair, as well as the formation of the "Young Professionals Alliance" for those ranging in age of 21 - 40, under the umbrella of the Hardin County Chamber & Business Alliance organization. 
As part of its ongoing workforce development strategies, the Alliance will host a new "Hardin County Student Job & Career Fair" in February 2017 for graduating seniors and college students.  Nearly 500+ twelfth grade students from local school districts throughout Hardin County, as well as area college students, will be invited to meet with several local and regional businesses that are recruiting full-time or part-time employment, summer jobs and internship opportunities. Businesses expected to participate will range from careers in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, education, financial, healthcare, retail and service industry.   
"As a first of its kind event for our community, not only does it give students the opportunity to explore more career pathways and interview for job opportunities, it allows businesses to recruit a skilled and viable workforce, and helps our community attract and retain a younger generation to live, work and prosper in Hardin County," said Jon Cross, who also serves as the director of economic development. 
The student job & career fair will be held at the Kenton Senior High School gymnasium on Friday, February 10th  from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.  Businesses, at no cost, can preregister by contacting the Alliance at 419-673-4131.  Each participant will be supplied with a table and chairs. 
In addition, the Hardin County Chamber & Business Alliance will launch the "Young Professionals Alliance" to allow professionals, entrepreneurs, small business owners, teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, farmers, manufacturers, realtors, and many other career industries throughout Hardin County the opportunity to come together for networking, educational and social opportunities.   
Last year, the Alliance met with 30 plus young professionals to discuss the formation and experiences they would like to participate in to help with their networking or career development focus.  Details will be announced in early 2017 about the first organized gathering.  
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Young Professionals Alliance, please email your name and contact information to alliance@hccba.com.


December 9, 2016

Price: Local educators focus more on students not bound for college

Education talk
Hardin Northern Superintendent Dr. Jeff Price discusses educational changes with LouAnn Cooke, from Gov. John Kasich’s office during Thursday’s Annual Alliance Christmas Luncheon at the Hardin County Armory. The focus of public schools in the county is no longer dedicated that each student attend college, but also to be trained in a marketable career. The Alliance announced two new programs to help in the partnership between the county schools and area businesses and connect young professionals.

For many years, the focus of public education was preparing students for college.

But not every graduate was headed to a university, noted Dr. Jeff Price as he addressed the Annual Alliance Christmas Luncheon sponsored by the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

To better address the educational needs of the non-college students and the business community, the school districts in Hardin County are shifting their focus to preparing students who are hoping to enter a trade school or secure a job following graduation.

Price, the superintendent of Hardin Northern Schools, said in recent years, there has been much emphasis on making sure students pass standardized tests and comparing the results of that testing system with other districts across the nation.

Teachers and administrators had been told the U.S. was falling behind other countries and needed to “up the standards.” All students from K-12 were to be prepared for college, he said.

“It’s a good goal, but I’m not sure it is the correct goal we should have,” said Price.

Many of those college graduates found themselves entering the world where there were no career opportunities in their chosen fields.

“We have a skills gap in the U.S.,” he told the group of businesses, professional and civic leaders gathered at the Hardin County Armory. “There are six million jobs open in the U.S. and the gap will continue to widen if we don’t help students focus on their careers.”

In recent years, he continued, the leaders of all county schools are telling their students attending college is a good decision, but there are other pathways open.

Two students may leave high school together with one going on to college and the other entering a career. While the college student is attending classes and paying tuition, said Price, the other student is earning money and staying out of debt.

“It could be hard for the student in college to catch up,” he said. “Economically, it makes sense. A good plumber will make more in his lifetime than a poor lawyer.”

The idea of testing students continually is also counter-productive to education, said Price. Testing may show how well a student knows facts, but it doesn’t put a value on their soft skills.

“We have put education on an assembly line,” said Price. “Our teachers and students have lost their relationships with each other because we are so focused on the tests.”

Employers are more often searching for employees who show up on time and work hard within a group,” said Price. Those are some of the lessons being taught in courses throughout the county.

“You can be proud of the work we are doing in Hardin County’s schools,” he said.

The six districts within the county system are partnering with each other, but also with businesses and schools of higher learning to train young people to perform jobs and learn marketable values.

“Each of the schools is looking for opportunities to work within their communities,” said Price.

The businesses willing to assist in monitoring programs, job shadowing or training programs should contact the local superintendents of the Alliance.

Students today are encouraged at an early age to identify an interest, Price said, and the schools are working to help make that interest a career.

The success of the new direction in education will depend on business leaders like those attending Thursday’s luncheon, he continued.

“Ultimately, you are our partners,” he said.

Following Price’s presentation, Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance Director Jon Cross announced two new programs being developed by his office to assist in the partnership between local businesses and school districts and the development of connections between young professionals.

One program, announced Cross, will develop a job and career fair in February. The program will bring an estimated 500 high school seniors and local college students together with area business leaders to recruit full-time or part-time employees for summer jobs or internships. There are expected to representative available from manufacturing, agriculture, education, financial, healthcare, retail and service industries.

“As a first-of-its-kind-event for our community,” Cross said, “not only does it give students the opportunity to explore more career pathways and interview for job opportunities, it allows businesses to recruit a skilled and viable workforce and helps our community attract and retain a younger generation to live, work and prosper in Hardin County.”

The Alliance will also be developing a Young Professionals Alliance for young people between the ages of 21 and 40. The group will work together in networking, educational and social opportunities, said Cross.

Times staff writer


November 19, 2016

Area students will begin training for jobs in the near future which may not be fully developed today.

Ohio Hi-Point Career Center Superintendent Rick Smith reported to the Hardin County Economic and Community Development Committee Friday morning that within two years his school will begin offering classes in smart technology.

It will be an opportunity for students to be on the cutting edge of self-driving automotive and drone technology which will be unique worldwide.

There are plans in place for development of the technology to be tested on U.S. 33 between Dublin and Bellefontaine, using the Transportation Research Center located between Bellefontaine and Marysville.

Hi-Point enrolls students in Union, Logan, Champaign and Hardin counties, he noted.

There will be need for people to design and develop sensors, switches and communication devices for the project to track the automated vehicles.

“This is a large project,” said Smith after the session.

“It will involve TRC, Ohio State, Michigan, ODOT, Carnegie-Mellon and more. This is a chance for students to help lay the foundation for a whole new job market.”

Cars are already being developed with lane sensors and automatic braking systems, he noted.

It has been predicted that within 15 years, most cars on the highway will be automatically driven.

“This is one of the few places in the world where we could expand the models and develop these type of jobs,” Smith said.

Students in the new program will be able to earn college credits and train for highly marketable careers, he said.

The school will be investing $1.5 million in remodeling classroom space for the smart technology and animal science programs, he said.

Hi-Point is also looking to return some of the courses which had been discontinued, said the superintendent, including HVAC and environmental.

There is also work being done to introduce an applied manufacturing class.

The career center has established satellite programs in 12 of the 14 districts served by Ohio Hi-Point, including one in Kenton and Upper Scioto Valley.

The satellite programs allows students to consider career decisions at a much earlier age with some enrolled in seventh or eighth grades.

Smith said there also are plans at Hi-Point to expand the internship programs to allow for more students to get hands-on training at area businesses.

The program has increased this year from 20 to 35 students with plans within five years to have 100 interns working through the school’s program.

He encouraged the business owners at Friday’s meeting to video the jobs done at their facilities to give the Hi-Point students more of an idea of the type of work they would be doing.

There has been an emphasis this year on expanding and better training the county’s work force, said Jon Cross, President and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance and Economic Development Director.

All county schools are offering internship programs, said Cross.

“Next we need to talk to parents and convince them things have changed in education since they were in school,” he said.

The added training is another example of the good economic news for the county, said Cross.

He noted there are 300 workers based out office located on the former Rockwell lot who are overseeing the installation of a Marathon pipeline through the area.

The workers are making an impact on local restaurants and hotels, said Cross.

There also has been news of EverPower signing an agreement to provide power to Amazon and install $300 million in wind turbines in 2017, said Cross.

Two other wind developers are in the process of setting up units in the county, he noted.

“There could be $1 billion invested in the county over ten years,” he said.

Development and expansion plans also were shared as the business owners went around the breakfast table in a discussion.

Hardin Memorial Hospital is planning to add an oncology department and expand telemedicine technology to bring the best “medical expertise throughout Ohio to Hardin County,” said Crystal Scott, Director of Nursing at HMH.

Thomas and Marker Construction Co. will be building the new department.

“All of this really helps our community,” said Cross.