The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

September 22, 2011

From industry to wine, Best of County recognized

600 attend event at Spire Institute

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County recognized the Best of the County Tuesday evening during its annual awards banquet at Spire Institute.

The 23rd annual event celebrated the county’s economic development success stories and the leaders behind them. Increasingly, nonprofit groups and their leaders are being recognized by the event.

Brian Anderson, executive director of Growth Partnership, said there were about 600 persons in attendance at the dinner, which cost $65 per ticket. He said attendance was about on par with last year.

This was Anderson’s first year to preside over the event, and said he was impressed with the community’s anticipation for the gala.

“Working through this I got a better sense of how much the event means to the community,” he said.

 He credited his staff, Hattie Grubke-Barnard and Cindy Rabe, for pulling it together.

“They do a great job,” he said.

Sponsors of the event, which had a theme of “moving forward,” were Grand River Rubber and Plastics, Third Dimension Inc., Century Link, Plasticolors, Kister Construction, Hughes-Roller Building, Kent State University-Ashtabula, Cristal Global and Wendy’s. KSU-A provided the audio-visual production for the event.

Each award recipient was introduced by a presenter and featured in a short video segment. The recipients were given three minutes to express their appreciation and comment on their work.

Receiving a Best of the County Award were:

n Grand River Rubber and Plastics of Ashtabula. Founders Joe Misnec and Ric Selip accepted the award from Jeff Jenks. Selip said they attempted to find buyers for the company on two different occasions, but “we could not see what the future held for everybody involved” and they suspended the search. The third time, they asked “Why not sell it to the people who need it the most?”

Grand River Rubber was thus sold to the 205 people who work there. “Our internal mission statement is that Grand River Rubber exists for the people who are lucky enough to work there,” Selip said.

n Continental Structural Plastics of Ohio. Plant Manager Dave Murtha received the award from Lewis Shiley of Infinity Resources. Murtha pointed out the long history of Continental in Conneaut and the company’s commitment to providing manufacturing jobs in the area.

n Community Care Ambulance. Director Julie Rose received the award from Tina Stasiewski of ACMC. Rose said the nonprofit service serves Ashtabula, Lake and Geauga counties, but also has sent ambulances to disaster areas outside the region. The service employs more than 150 and serves more than 50,000 patients annually.

Rose said that as changes continue to occur in health care, Community Care “will be part of the solution.”

n Sheldon Calvary Camp. Tim Green, director of the North Kingsville camp, received the award from Laura Jones, executive director of LEADERship Ashtabula. The camp, owned by the Episcopal Church, marked its 75th anniversary this year. It pumps thousands of dollars into the local economy every summer and employs more than 90 persons.

“It may be the second largest employer in North Kingsville,” quipped Green.

n Scott Strayer of Cristal Global Company/Millen-nium Inorganic Chemicals. Strayer, plant manager, received the award from Marty Kuula, who called him the “ultimate team player.”

The award was directed to the employees of the company, who give back to the community through projects and other efforts.

“This award is more about recognizing their efforts than mine, as they have paved the way for the last 50 years,” Strayer said.

Recipients of special awards were:

n Arnie Esterer, Lifetime Achievement Award. Co-founder of Markko Vineyard in Conneaut, Esterer was recognized for his commitment to bringing a world-class wine industry to the region. Esterer expounded on wine as food and cautioned against allowing its tourism aspects to overshadow the agricultural, traditional and nutritional foundations.

“Wine has been here 150 years. It’s in our blood now,” he said.

n Joe Del Priore, Robert S. Morrison Director’s Award. Del Priore, who served as interim director for Growth Partnership before Anderson, was recognized for his decades of service to the county in politics, industry and the faith community. His most recent effort is helping convert the former St. Joseph Elementary building to a Beatitude House for low-income women.

n Lift Bridge Community Association, Bey Blanchard’s President’s Award. Shelly Mullen, association chairwoman, said the closing of the Lift Bridge in 2008 could have been disastrous for merchants, but they chose to band together and find ways to keep people coming to the Harbor.

The group, assisted by the Business of Good Foundation founded by Tim and Alice McCarthy, has become a model for promoting the Harbor as a destination for restaurants, entertainment and shopping. Mullen said the district has two major festivals and hopes to revive the Blessing of the Fleet in 2012. Mullen said the group’s enthusiasm is infectious and more than half of its 74 members are outside the district.

n Mick Prochko, George H. Kaull Award for Entrepreneurship. Prochko, his wife Kay and son Steve own and operate Covered Bridge Gardens in Jefferson Township. The gardens grow vegetables for farmers markets throughout northeast Ohio and promote community supported agriculture.

Prochko said passion drives what they do and makes all the risks and sacrifices worth it. But he asked the audience to be respectful of his produce. “Thank you, thank you, and remember, don’t strip my damn corn!” he said.

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