Russ Kent: Positive things happening in Galion

GALION — Galion’s got a dirty little secret.

No, not that one.

Shame on you.

Our dirty little secret is — believe it or not — that this community is starting to feel a little better about itself.

And so are others.

For years. Galion residents have had a bit of an inferiority complex.

We didn’t much like ourselves, and judging from the amount of interest in other businesses, companies and families moving into the area, a lot of other people weren’t enthralled with our community either.

Not all of Galion residents felt that way.

But a whole bunch of them did.

And negativity seems to breed more negativity.

For years, their has been an epidemic of negativity in Galion.

All you had to do is look at social media and you could get the tone of area residents.

The complaints were endless.

Nowhere to go. Nothing to eat. Nothing for the kids to do. No reason to justify living here .. and on and one and one and on.

Some of those complaints were justifiable.

Misspent funds and 10 years of fiscal emergency didn’t help residents’ moods or their outlooks.

But folks, look around.

If you don’t see some improvement Galion, if you don’t feel a little bit more pride among community members, it’s because you don’t want to admit things are looking up.

Just look at recent investments in the community.

There is a hotel going up near the Ohio 30, Ohio 598 intersection. The thought of a new Sleep Inn, or anything similar, in Galion, was something to laugh about just a couple years ago.

A new Arby’s is close to being completed on Carter Drive, near the high school, across from Drug Mart.

Tim Horton’s is framed up and well underway on Harding Way West, just a block from the city’s busiest intersection.

The vacant restaurant at Heise Park Lane and Ohio 598 is expected to open in the spring as a new sports bar.

Another building, vacated months ago, is also undergoing a rehab project. This one is next to Victory Lanes, which used to be Gala Lanes, which opened up a few years ago, and was also vacant for several years.

There are new businesses uptown. And several of them are breaking trends, or establishing their own trends. They’re looking to attract a younger crowd … and they’re having some success.

There are new tenants in and about Galion’s Industrial Park on Ohio 598.

Although one of those tenants of the Ohio 598 corridor is leaving the downtown area. Mayor Tom O’Leary is confident that soon-to-be-vacant space that will become the former home of Longstreth Memorials can be filled in short order.

There is good news and growth at Galion’s Commerce Center.

Another effort will soon, hopefully, spur interest in the train depot.

New tenants mean new investment, new opportunities, more jobs, more tax dollars and a lot more reasons to live in the community.

“Some of that development is specifically related to changes and the climate at city hall,” O’Leary said. “In the first couple years, we did a lot of things, made a lot of plans, that I think has resulted in this development.Those changes are paying off now.”

I was not a big fan of changing back to a mayoral form of government.

But I cannot argue with the results.

Galion has people in city government who are invested in their community, who have lived in Galion for years, and who want to remain in the community.

We also had those people. But now we seem to have a lot more. And they are aggressive in making good on their plans an aspirations.

They decided they would rather live in a community with a sense of pride, instead of one enveloped by despair and negativity.

A mayoral form of government — in a way — promotes that type of government. An outside will not very easily be elected to office.

O’Leary has hinted of other ventures that could be announced for the the Ohio 598/Brandt Road area next year.

He’s very confident more good news is in the offing for Galion and it’s residents, which in turn can benefit all of Crawford County.

And I share that optimism.

Galion has always had a wonderful park system. Now it is better.

Even residents on the city’s east side have reason to smile a little brighter thanks to the new splash park facility completed and opened last summer.

The ball fields at Heise Park used by Galion High School and others are receiving makeovers. You will be hard-pressed to find a better high school softball or baseball complex anywhere around. The stadium has received some work, including a new pressbox.

O’Leary is quick to point many are working like crazy to make Galion a place people want to come to … to eat, to visit, to attend … even to live.

“(Galion City Schools superintendent) Jim Grubbs has been very influential,” O’Leary said. “He is truly interested in making the school district one that people want their kids to attend.”

The community is a little more united in purpose that it was even five years ago.

But it’s not just those elected to office who are affecting change.

There are others behind the scene … too many to list.

This weekend is the “Come Home to Galion Celebration” in the uptown area. It’s sponsored by the Experience Galion group and has grown each year. There are planned eventsstarting at 1 p.m. Saturday and lasting through the evening, including a parade, carriage rides, visits with Santa Claus and more. And it’s all free.

Galion’s Pickle Run Festival has returned. Last year’s Sunday finale and parade drew more people to the area in and around Heise Park that I’ve seen down there in more than 20 years.

To me, Galion’s upturn has everything to do with aggressive leadership and volunteers with a stake in their community.

And to a group of people who have grown tired of the wounded sense of pride that was palpable throughout its residents.

And I, for one, absolutely love it.

Russ Kent

Inquirer editor