Ottawa County business, industry leaders presented OCIC annual awards

Mar 21, 2019 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

The Business & Industry Awards presented by the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation (OCIC) on Wednesday evening at the Camp Perry Conference Center in Port Clinton took on a new and interactive format. The OCIC recognized achievements of Ottawa County business and community leaders, and also examined strategies for success amongst the winners and looked at economic projections for the 2019 year.

The award categories included achievement, entrepreneur of the year, business of the year, Bill Mack business leader and volunteer of the year.
There were two 2018 Achievement Awards recognizing 150 years of business.

The first Achievement Award was presented to Gordon Lumber to recognize 150 years in operation. Gordon Lumber has served northwest Ohio since 1868 and has achieved success through key principles such as maintaining hometown pride, ensuring employee longevity and having a dedicated staff that provides exemplary service to customers. In 2018, Gordon Lumber was honored with a Family Business Achievement Award at the 2018 Smart Business Family Business Conference and celebrated 150 years with the Gordon Lumber employees and families at the Toledo Mud Hens’ Fifth Third Field.

The second Achievement Award was presented to The Village of Genoa to recognize 150 years in operation. The Village of Genoa was established in 1835 and was originally named Stony Ridge. Legend tells us that the town was looking to be renamed “Venice,” but when the representative making the request arrived in Columbus, Ohio’s state capital since 1816, they had reportedly forgotten which Italian town they were going to name the village.

The officials ended up choosing “Genoa.”

The Grand Army of the Republic/Women’s Relief Corp. Hall is one of the most important landmarks in Genoa, and was used as a post for 200 Civil War veterans. Genoa was selected to host President Rutherford B. Hayes and five Civil War generals for the 100th Ohio Voluntary Infantry’s reunion.

The Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Wine Flight, located in downtown Elmore. Wine Flight opened in 2017 and local owners Tony and Rebekah Zimmerman brought their love of aviation to the business concept.

The retail shop and bar includes a selection of more than 200 wines and a large variety of craft beer. It also features a variety of seasonal and staple farm-to-table foods. Wine Flight encourages customers to order food from local restaurants and enjoy their cuisine at Wine Flight with a specialty beverage. Wine Flight hosts cooking classes, wine education workshops, yoga with wine, trivia nights and features live entertainment.

The Business of the Year award was presented to the Boardwalk Family of Restaurants. Owned by the Booker family, the The Boardwalk Family of Restaurants provides a wide variety of island experiences that offer something for everyone.

The Booker family has embarked on several investment projects over the years that have changed the landscape of Put-in-Bay Harbor, including a multi-million dollar expansion at the Boardwalk Restaurant in 2007, the addition of The Keys property in 2011 and recent investments in employee housing facilities.

The Bill Mack Business Leader Award recognizes an individual business leader for their work and support of the community. This year, OCIC recognized Plant Manager Bob Babjack of Chipmatic Tool & Machine Inc. in Elmore. Babjack is responsible for the day-to-day operations and efficiencies of the plant and feels his employees are an extension of his family.

Learning of an employee’s struggles with addiction, Babjack and his employees strived to understand the issues with addiction and how to create an environment of support. Babjack’s response to the employee truly embodied leadership.

The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Ottawa County Engineer Ron Lajti, who oversees all construction and maintenance projects in the county. Lajti has partnered with OCIC in a number of ways to enhance private sector investments and support career readiness. He worked with OCIC on a $950,000 public infrastructure improvement project along Lake Street at U.S. Gypsum’s plant, receiving funding from ODOT and JobsOhio. Lajti participates in the Business Advisory Council’s annual Career Showcase, has provided support to OCIC’s partnership with Volvo Penta’s marine training program and serves as a trustee of the OCIC.

After the awards were presented, Rebekah and Tony Zimmerman, Eric Booker, Bob Babjack, and Ron Lajti each discussed their “strategies for success.” This panel served as a way to help gather new ideas for local businesses and individuals.

Following the Strategies for Success panel, local business representatives presented a 2019 Forecast for Ottawa County. Brian Harr of First National Bank spoke about the financial industry; Kyle Dodd with the Rudolph Libbe Group gave an update on future projects in the construction industry; Larry Fletcher with Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands spoke on the County’s tourism sector; and at the workforce level, John Trott with the Area 7 Workforce Board discussed the changing workforce landscape and challenges employers are facing with recruitment, and the workforce development resources that employers can access.

For more information on OCIC, visit on the Internet, or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

OCIC Awards

Winners of this year’s Ottawa County Improvement Corporation Business & Industry Awards included: Rebeka and Tony Zimmerman of Win Flight in Elmore; Jen and Eric Booker of the Boardwalk Restaurant family in Put-in-Bay; Bob Babjack of Chipmatic Tool & Machine Inc. in Elmore; and Ottawa County Engineer Ron Lajti. (Photo by D’Arcy Egan)

OCIC Forecast Panel

Local business representatives presenting a 2019 Forecast for Ottawa County were: Brian Harr of First National Bank; Kyle Dodd of Rudolph Libbe Group; Director Larry Fletcher of Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands; and John Trott of Area 7 Workforce Development Board.


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