EATON — For the first time ever, Dayton Development Coalition’s (DDC) Regional Economic Development Forum was held in Preble County. The regional event was held at Henny Penny World Headquarters in Eaton on Friday, June 23, and gave the county and its representatives an opportunity to show itself off to regional partners.
At the end of the summit, there was a question and answer session and Henny Penny offered a tour of the facility to the first 40 attendees who signed up.
The event began first thing in the morning with a networking breakfast, followed by opening remarks from Art Harlan, Executive Vice-President of Henny Penny.
“I appreciate the opportunity to have everybody out and welcome you to this event,” Harlan said. “First of all, you’re at a company that was founded in 1957 by a local fellow named Chester Wagner. So we are celebrating our 60th anniversary this year.
“We are a manufacturer of food service equipment, especially frying and holding equipment used in some of the biggest names in the quick service industry. We also sell to other restaurants and supermarkets and we do ti worldwide. Our foundation for that is people first.”
While the event was hosted by Henny Penny, it was sponsored by PNC Bank. Dan Davis with PNC Bank took the microphone next to thank those in attendance for supporting the forum. He said, “PNC is a proud sponsor of economic development forums, especially ones here in Preble County. Little commercial about PNC Bank, we are a full service bank. We have other 40 offices in the Miami Valley. We have over 2,500 employees in the Miami Valley. We actually bank dozens of businesses here in Preble County, in fact, Art [Harlan] thank you very much, we’re proud to be a partner with Henny Penny.”
Following the welcome from both Harlan and Davis, it was time for comments from the elected officials. First to speak was Ohio Senator Bill Beagle.
“What I’m going to do is spend my few minutes talking about what we continue to hear, along with the Opiate crisis, is the most important thing to our employers, and that’s workforce development,” he said. “I do sit on the governor’s executive workforce board and back in September we had our first off site meeting at the Honda Plant in Marysville. The governor was kind enough to join us, grab the microphone, and issue us a challenge as a workforce board.
“That was, a need to create a pre-kindergarten to workforce system of training so that our students and our children and our adults can be ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow. He said we need to do this by the end of the year, and if our board wasn’t up to it, he would find somebody who would. Then he left,” Beagle said.
“We accepted the challenge and then we broke up into groups and got to work. In December, we did issue our recommendations and I am thrilled to admit they have put lots of pictures, they have prettied it up, from an eight page draft to a 22-page finished document without any additional words, and it is available online at the Ohio Office of Workforce Development website. It is labeled the Building Ohio’s Future Workforce, it is on the main page.”
State Representative Jeff Rezabek spoke about the opioid problem in Ohio.
“We are seriously working on the budget. It has been through the House, now the Senate, now it is in conference committee. And we voted not to agree with the Senate. I know it was a shock to most people. We were tasked even that night to start going through the changes in the budget,” he said. “One of the things we decided to take on in the House, because it is the number one problem in the State of Ohio, it is the number one problem in the United States. If you’ve been watching the news lately, NBC, MSNBC, New York Times, People Magazine, World News Reports, they’re all talking about Montgomery County and Miami Valley.
“Number one problem, crossroads of America. Number one in death. In Montgomery County, at the beginning of June, we surpassed what the goal was, or what we had tried to keep it down to for this next year, for 2017. We didn’t want to reach 400 deaths of overdoses. That was the year’s goal, trying to keep that down. We surpassed it in June.
“Why do I talk about the opiate addiction? Because it does have an effect on all of you, our economy, a drain on our State resources, local resources — you know, you just had, I believe two days ago, the sheriff in Preble County, along with State Troopers, 26 pounds of, not heroin — meth. Different kind of thing. Why is that all of a sudden making a big thing? Because people are starting to make interdiction into stopping the heroin flow.
“So we stop the heroin flow, what happens then? You can do some of the other drugs, but fentanyl — who is your largest carrier of fentanyl into the United States? The United States Post Office brings that fentanyl in through the mail,” Rezabek said.
“In the region we have six dogs that go ahead and go through the FedEx company and sniff and do all that kind of stuff. There are six dogs. How many packages do you think goes through the four different facilities that we have? The dogs need breaks — we don’t get it all.”
Rezabek continued, the House came up with the HOPES Agenda, which deals with how to tackle the opiate problem. The agenda seeks to develop a plan that will deal with whatever would occur next.
He added, “One of the number one problems of why we’re failing in treating the opiate addiction problem is we don’t have enough beds. In Montgomery County two years ago we had an outstanding number of beds, can anyone guess how many beds we needed to treat a full time opioid addiction? Eight beds that would have been successful. It takes three years to get somebody off any type of addiction. To get their brain back to where they’re doing well. We need to expand treatment centers, and that’s the largest part of this HOPES Agenda in the budget.”
“We’re going to do our best to solve these problems, but we truly need everybody’s help. All hands on deck trying to solve this opioid issue. If we resolve it, I think things are going to be better,” Rezabek concluded.
On a lighter note, Preble County Commissioner Chris Day took the stage to discuss the Dayton Development Coalition’s affect on Preble County.
“On behalf of Commissioner Rodney Creech, Denise Robertson, and myself, I want to welcome everybody here to Preble County. Thank you guys for coming out,” he said. “This is a great thing for Preble County. This is the first summit in Preble County. I would like to thank the DDC for putting this together. When we were in Washington, Julie Sullivan and I were talking, Brenda Latanza and I thought it would be a good thing to bring this to Preble County and Julie pretty much made it happen. I want to thank the DDC for that. Again, I would like to thank Henny Penny for sponsoring this.
“One thing I want to talk about a little bit is the Preble County Developmental Partnership,” Day continued. “This is the sixth year for its existence. Back in 2009 and 2010, we started talking about this. We had nothing like this in Preble County. A group of folks got together and we started talking. We hired an Economic Development Director, we got a private partnership together, came up with some rules and guidelines, and the result is we have a partnership that has done a lot of good things in a very short period of time.
“For you folks out there that have been in the Economic Development side of things, you know the six years in this is just a snapshot. We were very fortunate to have all the public entities get on board and all the private entities get on board. The one thing that I want to give a shout out to is a lot of the businesses, utility companies have very graciously allowed their people to support this.
“So we’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people. The leadership that we’ve had, in the five years that we’ve been in existence, we’ve had a lot of great success. We’ve probably had about 20 great success stories.”
DDC Executive Vice President Sullivan also provided a regional update.
“Although some of the conversation already this morning was a bit sobering, it’s very critical to the overall conversation of how we move our community forward,” she said. “Over the past year, year and a half, we’ve used this image of a puzzle piece with lots of different parts to it, and the hope is that it is representative of the concept that no one entity or organization can do economic or community development alone. It is very much a team sport and we can’t do what we do for the region, the local community can’t do what they do, without the region and the State, and we need to be in close partnership with our legislators as well, in order to move things forward.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH