Local leaders: Look ahead Galion; stop focusing on past issues

GALION — There was a common theme among speakers at Tuesday’s 2019 Economic Update and Business Forecast Breakfast.

It was that Galion has a lot of things to be proud of, and that it’s time to quit talking about the past and commit to building a better future for Galion and Crawford County.

Gary Frankhouse, executive director of the Crawford Partnership, perhaps expressed that thought best.

“We’ve lost our swagger,” he said.

The he discussed his mentor, current Ashland University and former Galion High School coach Lee Owens, who led Galion to a 1985 state football championship. “We had no right to think we could win that game. But we did, because those players were convinced they deserved to win.

“We thought we could do anything. And we did,” he said.

Frankhouse has taken that same attitude in his efforts to bring new business and new opportunities to this part of Ohio as well as leaders’ effort to bring more qualified workforce, new businessess owners and investors to the area.

One of the tools he can use to entice people to come here is a multi-purpose rec center for the Ohio 598/U.S. 30 area.

“Recreation and fitness is a $9.8 billion dollar industry,” he said.

Advance planning, feasibility studies are completed and J&F Construction, which has moved into the old PECO building in that area is working on construction-ready blueprints and spage usage. Already, more than $1.3 million has been invested toward this all-year sports complex that will host sports activities, classes and other events to draw in regional revenue and tourism spending, and promote better fitness throughout Crawford County.

Key features in the planning include three basketball courts, six volleyball courts and one turf field that would attract travel sports and tournaments on the weekends, and fill a local need for practice space on weeknights.

A study completed by a Florida firm projects a revenue of $1.1 million per year the first five years of operating, including $2.9 million in tourism spending in that time. That tourism spending includes hotels, convenience stores, restaurant and anything else visitors spend money on while here.

Information on the Crawford Partnership website discusses funding. “While a number of grant requests are pending review, we are actively working with private entities and non-profit foundations to fund this project. The Freese Foundation is a private entity that gives money to the city for park and recreation projects, and to the school for college scholarships. This is a main source of funding for the proposed sports complex. We are not currently planning to request any tax levies, and the City is not spending tax dollars on this project.”

Others discussed several Galion success stories. Covert Manufacturing HR Director Chanel Hipp said: “Business is good at Covert. Hopefully that is good for Galion.”

She said Covert is putting up a new 50,000 square foot building and bringing new equipment to town.

But she also lamented another common theme, that it is hard to find quality workers to fill job openings in this area.

Jerome Morasko, president and CEO of Avita Health System, discussed recent and continued growth at Avita. He said Avita employs 1,800 workers in 30 sites, which is up from 450 in 2010, when Morasko came to Galion. As far as Galion Hospital, the revenue in 2010 was $50 million. This year, revenue is expected to be $120 million.

Galion recently opened a Level 2 cath lab, which means doctors have the ability to put stents in ailing patients.

“Already, we’ve saved a lot of lives,” he said.

Galion City Schools superintendent Jim Grubbs talked about the primary school’s success literacy program and the fact that Galion students now have an opportunity to earn an associates degree in liberal arts at the Galion campus while also attending high school … at no cost to students.

Other speakers Tuesday included Dawn Ratliff, president of ADM Benefit Plans Agency, who talked about some of the benefits available to Galion-Crestline Area Chamber of Commerce members. Rep. Riordan McClain, who represents Galion and the 87th district in the Ohio legislature, and Keith Lake, vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, who discussed the upcoming state budget.

Galion Mayor Tom O’Leary summed up the mood of those in attendance. Noting that the city is finally out of fiscal emergency, now is the time to move ahead with some long-discussed projects. In fact, if Galion and Crawford County are going to grow, some of those projects have to come to fruition.

“I’ll be honest,” he said. “Our workforce is pretty much tapped out. Now we need to get people to come to Galion and invest and grow here. The assets we have to show off, to entice others to come here, is limited. We need to grow.”

He said new housing, the rec center, Galion City Schools and other projects are things that city and the Crawford Partnership see as bringing new businesses and opportunities.

“Quality, modern housing is perhaps the greatest need,” he said. “And that’s what we’re working on. It’s time for all of us to stop looking backward. It’s time to look ahead.”



By Russ Kent

Galion Inquirer