BY SHERI TRUSTY
The Ottawa County Improvement Corporation (OCIC) hosted the most unique Experience Ottawa County (EOC) event to date on Wednesday, Aug. 17. The venue changed, the format changed, and the focus of the event, now in its 27th year, more clearly defined the event’s purpose to showcase and celebrate Ottawa County. Local business leaders and their staff had the opportunity to network, market their businesses, discover more about the Ottawa County community, and enjoy a surprise visit by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
“We were grateful to have Gov. DeWine celebrate with us and engage with business leaders from across the county. He has a great appreciation and understanding of our diverse economy, geography and the assets that make us unique,” said OCIC Executive Director Chris Singerling.
“This is the premier networking and marketing event for the business community across Ottawa County. Today is about celebrating everything Ottawa County has to offer. Well over 300 people are here, which is a record.”
In years past, the event was successfully held at The Keys on Put-in-Bay, but the EOC planning committee chose to bring it to the mainland to better draw the county-wide business world together. This year, the event was held at Twin Oast on Catawba.
Other changes to the event include the addition of two local food trucks and three specialty drink tents hosted by Gideon Owen of Catawba, Gristmill in Port Clinton and Red Moon on Put-in-Bay. Yellow House Bakery and Great Lakes Popcorn Co. provided dessert, and a variety of retail vendors representing different areas of the county created the event’s first “Retail Row.”
“We tried to get retailers from every area of the county, from Elmore to Put-in-Bay,” said OCIC administrative assistant Monica Metcalf.
Among the vendors were Whimsy & Blue Boutique from Elmore, Island Sham Farmhouse from Port Clinton, and Makers on Main from Genoa.
“This is great for the west end of the county, because it’s important for all of us in Ottawa County to work together,” said Makers on Main owner Gail McWatters. “There are businesses here I didn’t know about, and I’m all about supporting small businesses. I’m meeting new people and reconnecting with people here.”
Several educational, wellness and community organizations were represented at the event, including The Wellness Project, The Arts Garage, Firelands Forward workforce development collaborative, Ottawa County Skilled Trades Academy and local chambers of commerce.
“Twin Oast has been amazing, and all the vendors have been absolutely wonderful to work with. This wouldn’t have been possible without the EOC planning committee,” said Jessica Grzechowiak, OCIC Manager of Communications and Programs. “I’m so pleased with how it’s going. Everyone is mingling, socializing and shopping.”
Singerling said the new venue and format of this year’s EOC brought a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to the event.
“Each year, we’ll choose a new location. Next year, it will be at Schedel in Elmore. Maybe we’ll have new vendors. Maybe we’ll have more vendors,” he said. “We’ll keep moving forward with this concept.”