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Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Celina Group looks back, forward

By Doug Drexler

Celina Group Chairman Bill Montgomery arrives with Bob Leugers to Celina Insuran. . .

CELINA - Not many business relationships last 100 years, so Bill Montgomery and Bob Leugers had to celebrate theirs in style.
The principals behind the Celina Insurance Group and Leugers Insurance agency rolled up to the Group's 100th anniversary celebration Tuesday in a carriage pulled by two white horses.
The arrival was a nod to Herman Leugers' and E.J. Brookhart's meeting in 1914, when Leugers became the first agent affiliated with the company that became Celina Insurance Group. Leugers, Bob Leugers' grandfather, ironically rode a horse-drawn carriage from Maria Stein to Celina to meet E.J. Brookhart, Montgomery's great uncle, to strike a deal to sell fire insurance policies on new automobiles.
"I think E.J. Brookhart and Herman Leugers would be proud to see their descendants standing together as partners 100 years after each man started in business," Montgomery said. "We're very proud to have stood the test of time."
The company has grown from 20 employees to 178, one affiliated agent to 500 and 8,000 policies to more than 100,000 since that first year, he said.
The theme of the celebration, "Looking back. Moving forward," carries a challenge, too, he said.
"You can't rest on your laurels," he said.
The anniversary celebration for employees and invited guests also brought an abundance of government officials who acknowledged the company's impact on the city and state.
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who is also director of the state's department of insurance, said it was clear the company had flourished by doing the right things.
"It's an important business to the state of Ohio," she said, noting Montgomery had been part of a group that reviewed Ohio's regulatory processes in insurance. She said Celina Group was a domestic company selling low-cost, competitive products to consumers across Ohio and several other states. Ohio has the lowest auto insurance rates in the nation and is in the Top 10 for lowest home insurance, she said.
Ohio has the seventh-largest insurance industry among the states. Taylor expects the industry to have 26,000 job openings by 2020 as baby boomers retire and the industry continues to grow. She encouraged young people to consider working in insurance as an agent, accountant or attorney.
"This is an industry you should look into," she said.
Insurance is a $17 billion industry with 95,000 employees in the state of Ohio, she added.
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said he came to Celina 21 years ago to work at the Group. He said Montgomery's father, Don, was chairman when Faber came to Celina, and the elder Montgomery taught him to do the right thing.
"The focus was always 'how do we say yes,' '' Faber, R-Celina, said. "Don was a visionary and is a visionary," who built the company on the belief "do the right thing and the right thing will happen," he said.
"It's very few companies that can stay the course and survive 100 years," he said as he presented a proclamation from the Ohio Senate. Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, was also present and added another from the House.
The company has also had a strong influence on the community, helping bring higher education to Celina in the form of the predecessor to Wright State University-Lake Campus. It was also instrumental in the creation of the Auglaize Mercer YMCA and the medical and cancer centers in Celina, as well as Montgomery Field in Eastview Park, he said.
Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel saluted the company's legacy of service to the community. The company's decision not to lay off employees during the Great Depression particularly impressed him.
"That, to me, shows the fortitude of the company," he said.
Along with the thousands of jobs that allowed people to raise families in the area, the company has a history of giving back to the city, Hazel said. He noted Eastview Pond and Montgomery Field, along with the new fountain and bench that welcome visitors to the city and Grand Lake.
"We're proud of Celina Group," Hazel said, "and what you do for the community."
Montgomery, with the help of his son, Scott, also revealed the contents of the time capsule buried in 1962 in the cornerstone of the company's headquarters located in the city block bordered by Sugar, Livingston, Walnut and Fulton streets.
Among the items were an audiotape of John Glenn's space mission, along with recordings of the groundbreaking ceremony and signatures of all Mercer County schoolchildren, the company's annual report and issues of Automotive News and The Daily Standard. A new time capsule will include a mobile tablet full of photos, videos and social media snapshots, corporate memorabilia and photos of downtown Celina, a supermarket ad and issues of The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine.
He also took the opportunity to announce creation of a $5,000 scholarship through the Mercer County Civic Foundation for students pursuing education in insurance fields. The company will continue to fund the scholarship through corporate donations and employee fundraisers, he said.
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