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Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Official believes county is heading into financial recovery

By Shelley Grieshop
If the traffic in and out of the Mercer County economic development office is an indicator, the slack economy may be awakening from its slump.
Economic Development Director Larry Stelzer told county commissioners Tuesday that he's been busy fielding applications and inquiries from companies seeking to start new businesses and expand existing ones. On Monday, for example, he hosted an "impressive" out-of-state company that is looking for a place to locate, he said.
"It's great news. This could mean a lot of jobs. They need a lot of capitol and the state is trying to help them and we're going to try to do whatever way we can, too," he said.
To respect their privacy, Stelzer would not reveal the name of the company except to say it is a manufacturing outfit. He said company officials also are looking at property in Van Wert, Wapakoneta and Lima, but seem to have fallen in love with Grand Lake.
"They loved the lake," and showed an interest in the Celina industrial park, he added.
Businesses across the country began feeling the recession late last year - about the same time Stelzer began noticing a lull in industrial growth locally, he admitted. But in recent weeks the tide appears to be changing. He currently has two applications in-hand for the county's revolving loan fund (RLF) program and may have three more on their way, he said.
The RLF - a low-interest loan fund - currently has about $400,000 to lend to qualified businesses.
Stelzer also told commissioners that a prominent local company is attempting to purchase another Ohio company, which would mean an expansion locally - and more jobs.
"It's really neat to see that," he added.
Stelzer and his staff continue to look for ways to give business owners or want-to-be business owners a leg up. He and other officials are trying to start an entrepreneur center at Wright State University-Lake Campus in Celina, which would provide resources and education to anyone interested.
He also spoke to commissioners about a public financing seminar set for Thursday at the WSU campus. The session is designed to educate the public on various federal, state and local programs available and how to apply for assistance.
Stelzer also gave an update on Diamondbeck Inc., a new roofing company setting up shop in St. Henry. At a community development breakfast meeting set for April 14, owners of the Greenville-based company will discuss how they obtained funding for their endeavor, including the $600,000 they received for equipment from the county's RLF.
The $1.9 million manufacturing plant is expected to begin production in the next six weeks, Stelzer said. It's just another good sign, he added.
"The bottom line here is - the county is starting to come out of its cave," he said.
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