By Matt Sanctis, Staff Writer Springfield News-Sun
Downtown Urbana has seen a spike in activity this fall, with three businesses moving into the city’s historic Monument Square District, along with other improvements designed to bring more residents into the heart of the town.
Over the next several weeks, Big Willie’s Smokehouse will open a new barbecue restaurant at 23 Monument Square and Mark Joseph Floral Design Studio will open at 15 Monument Square.
The law firm of Thompson, Dunlap and Heydinger also plans to open a downtown office in Monument Square by the end of this year, said Chris Moell, an attorney at the firm based in Bellefontaine.
Improvements have also been made at Legacy Park, including fresh paint and a kiosk that highlights available businesses downtown, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership. The new businesses are a sign that interest and investment downtown has improved in recent years, she said.
“We’re fortunate that if somebody does close, it doesn’t take too much time before someone else opens up, which gives us a variety of stores downtown,” Bailey said.
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Local leaders hope to see progress on other projects downtown, including finding a use for the former Douglas Hotel, Bailey said. That project hasn’t moved forward for years, but she said local officials have placed a renewed emphasis on that and other projects to promote further investment downtown.
Bill Curtis of Big Willie’s Smokehouse said he had a five-year business plan to open a restaurant when he opened a barbecue food truck earlier this year. But the business took off so quickly he joked it ended up being closer to a five-month business plan.
“We opened in March and we were overwhelmed,” Curtis said. “If I smoked 50 pounds of brisket, I could have sold 75. If I’d smoked 75 I could have sold 100, which is a great problem to have.”
The restaurant, which is expected to open in October, will be decorated with large photos of downtown Urbana’s history. It will focus on serving items like brisket, pulled pork and smoked chicken wings. The store will likely hire six or seven employees.
“We definitely want to see these buildings filled,” Curtis said of downtown. “We’re excited about the growth and the changes we’re seeing in our town.”
>>DETAILS: Urbana’s Legacy Park nears completion
Just across the street, Mark Mefford will open the floral design studio at 15 Monument Square.
And the law firm will open its office in the square by the end of the year. It will be the firm’s fourth, along with offices in Bellefontaine, West Liberty and Lakeview. This year is the firm’s 50th anniversary.
Mefford has been working in downtown Urbana since he was 19 and owns Bill’s Enchanted Flowers and Gifts. But he recently purchased H Holding Co. and will open the design studio in the square in a larger location. The new store will be open in mid-October, and will offer a variety of home decorations, gifts and the flower shop in a single location.
The store employs about eight workers. Mefford’s brother is also building a custom-made cooler to show off the business’ floral products, he said.
The former flower shop at 221 N. Main St. will close once they move into the new location.
“It’s only doing better and better,” Mefford said of downtown. “I’ve watched it change over 21 years with ups and down. I think right now its only getting stronger. It’s becoming a destination town, which is really nice.”
The Springfield News-Sun provide extensive coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign Counties, including tracking local unemployment rates and expansions at Navistar.
by Nick Walton, Urbana Daily Citizen - firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Rothschild Farm CEO Andy Deister gave Champaign County commissioners an update on the company’s progress Thursday morning.
During the conversation, Deister outlined the company’s progress over the last couple of years, steps they have taken to stay competitive and the company’s future locally.
Deister said over the last few years there had not been investment in the business and the company had strayed away from its roots. Over the last year and a half, Deister said the company has been focused on doing the necessary thing to meet different challenges.
One of the challenges Deister referenced was competition from other companies. He said other companies have probably done a better job of marketing their businesses than Rothschild.
Deister said the company has focused on getting the sizing, pricing and product label right, innovation and doubling down on manufacturing.
As a result of efforts to improve marketing, Deister showed off a redesigned container the company launched in June aimed at modernizing the package in a move he said has been met with positive feedback.
Moving to the next phase, Deister said the company recently had administrative restructuring to get their administrative overhead in line with their sales.
“What that allows us to do is really focus our efforts now on our manufacturing and doubling down here in Urbana so no production or manufacturing or distribution jobs were affected by that,” Deister said. “We’re excited to be in partnership with the community here and we’re looking to increase our presence and our emphasis here in Urbana.”
As the company looks to ramp up production and hiring in manufacturing, commissioner Steve Hess asked if the company has enough capacity on production. Deister said right now the company does and production is an area they have made progress in.
Along with Deister, Marcia Bailey, economic development director of the Champaign Economic Partnership, and Urbana Director of Administration Kerry Brugger, were in attendance during the conversation. Previously, officials from the county and city of Urbana approved a sewer line extension for the company.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.
Urbana native and third generation business owner Kyle Hall has been appointed to the Clark State Community College Board of Trustees by Governor John Kasich.
Hall serves as president of the Hall Company where he oversees all facets of day-to-day operations, company strategies, developing and executing short- and long-term plans, finances, key customer relationships and hiring decisions.
“Kyle Hall brings excellent industry and management expertise that will serve our students, and his skill set truly complements our Board. We are pleased to have board representation from Champaign County,” said Clark State President Dr. Jo Alice Blondin.
Hall said he is excited to be part of the Clark State Board of Trustees and looks forward to giving back to the community. “I think if you are in a position where you are able to run a company and be a leader in a community, you need to give something back,” he said. “I like to focus on things that I think I can benefit.”
The Hall Company is a global, technology-based firm that provides switches, controls and overlays for a variety of industries including medical devices.
“I’m excited by the steps Clark State has taken to partner with manufacturers and offer a wide curriculum of skills to help improve manufacturing,” said Hall.
Hall currently also serves as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hall Company and is a member of the Champaign County Manufacturing Council. He previously served on the board for the Dayton Development Coalition, Urbana Lions Club and the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. He holds a bachelor of science in marketing from Wright State University.
“I believe firmly that it’s important for people to better themselves through education,” said Hall. “There is a need in the workforce for additional skills and education that Clark State is very well suited to help with, and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
by Kirk Koennecke, Superintendent Graham Local Schools
Lost in news about workforce availability, recessionary economics & restrained government funding is an essential truth that can transform urban and rural America, one student at a time. We have all wanted to be treated like “adults” and we have all gone through Rights of passage in our lives. Who decided 18 was the magic number for the workforce? Does anyone know anymore?
The legal “age of majority” has been set into laws and adjusted since the 1870’s, and has been considered 18 now for well over 45 years. If it could be lowered before, why not now? Don’t historical demands on our economy and socio-political trends that affect the U.S. matter now as much as they have in other eras? The Ohio Department of education has actually added a new portion to the state report card to judge graduates “preparedness” to enter the workforce, college, or the military. Can’t our government provide more flexibility for schools as another unfunded mandate is thrust upon us?
By allowing half of the eligible teenagers under 18 to earn even $8 hourly, working part-time, this country could have been injecting another 1.6 Billion consumer dollars into our local economies and driving more production and more profits for businesses in high-demand industries over the past decade.
In many states there are no hourly restrictions on the number of hours 16 & 17 year olds may work, yet these same states have antiquated occupational barriers in place keeping 17 year olds from doing exactly the work America demands of them in schools, and that our country needs right now in industries such as carpentry, machine trades, manufacturing, roofing, and operating power equipment.
Forget about hi-tech for a moment, how about necessary labor? We should trust a teenager to drive a car and make money at the same time, hammer a nail, and weld and form metal after they have taken hours of certification courses in school, before they graduate. There are over 20 Million teenagers working in America now. In the past year the youth labor force grew another 600,000. There are another 275,000 16-17 year olds unemployed in this country, and for the majority of them, this is not by choice, it’s because they can only find seasonal jobs in retail, hospitality, or educational temp jobs. As the national drop-out rate has gone down for over a decade, the number of eligible “qualified workers” has not increased.
Abby Urquhart is a 17 year old junior at Graham High School in Saint Pairs Ohio. She walked into the city government building and asked to volunteer. She now works 3 days a week for various hours, saving Saint Paris countless thousands of dollars in man hours and salary for the benefit of the citizens of that town. Why did she have to ask? Why aren’t we doing more for Abby? At the Graham local schools our mission is to provide adaptive and flexible learning opportunities for students like Abby, and to work with community partners like local government agencies, businesses, and other organizations to find new job ready certifications, internship and apprentice roles, and jobs for Graham’s high school students.
As a school administrator I am asked constantly by community members and educators alike to build partnerships and connect members to our 17 year olds, and to promote career education in our state. Harnessing their ideas and work ethic, along with recruiting their personal talents, should be the goal of every business man and woman in America. Let’s harness tomorrow’s workforce today, and realize the power of 17.