MORGAN TOWNSHIP — Hundreds of people gathered at Beaumont Scout Reservation on Tuesday evening to celebrate excellence in businesses, industry and education.

The Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County Best of the County Awards dinner gathered business leaders for the first time in three years after the event’s cancellation in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

GP Executive Director Mike Myers greeted the crowd and rejoiced in the chance to gather again.

“It has been three years and three days since we were together,” he said.

Myers said Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County focuses on business retention and expansion, business recruitment, workforce development and attracting investment to area industry and business.

Myers said 68 companies have received visits from GP representatives so leaders can understand what is happening inside the four walls of the companies.

He said there was $770 million dollars in capital investment with 330 new jobs created. Myers said there are a lot of projects being pitched with wide ranging investments with the potential of creating up to 2,300 jobs.

The Best of County Awards banquet provides the opportunity to honor a variety of leaders in the county.

Scott Becker, president of Chromaflo, and Richard Jackson, a retired executive vice president of Ashta Chemicals, received the Lifetime Service Award for their service to the organization.

Becker said he came to the area 22 years ago and has always believed in giving back to the community. He said the company has also encouraged it’s employees to volunteer to make their community a better place.

The company leader urged others not to accept “I can’t” or “I don’t have the time” when asked to make a difference in the community.

Jackson said he has been in Ashtabula County for 25 years and believes it is a great place to live and urged people to champion its strengths and work hard to improve weaknesses.

“For those who don’t live in Ashtabula County I ask you, ‘why’?,” he said.

Kennametal and Green Bay Packaging Third Dimension Division were honored with Manufacturing Operational Excellence awards for their expansion and commitment to Orwell and Geneva, respectively.

Kennametal Orwell Plant Manager Frank Constantine said the company has modernized the plant and is working with children to show them a modern, high-tech company.

GBPTDD General Manager Steve Ellsworth said he grew up in Ashtabula County and is proud to be a part of company that is growing and thanked Jeanette and Louis DeJesus who started the company in the late 1980s.

“I dedicate this award to everyone in this room,” Ellsworth said.

Katie Bolan, operations manger at Worthington Industries in Jefferson, received the Young Business Leader award. She moved to the area six months ago.

She has been with the company for many years and has served in 10 different positions, at six facilities in eight states. Bolan said it has been a blessing to work with such a great company.

Iten Industries, Kent State University Ashtabula and Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus received Workforce Innovation Awards in developing a cooperative educational program.

Iten Industries President Pete Huggins said the cooperative model will hopefully be used by other companies in the area.

“Iten Industries welcomes the collaboration at secondary and higher education,” he said.

Hearthside Grove Lake Erie received a Service Business Excellent Award for growing a luxury camping business in Geneva-on-the-Lake.

“Growth Partnership was a great help four to five years ago,” said managing partner Eric Frantz.

Leaders from Conneaut also received a Community Partnership Award for working to revitalize Conneaut Harbor. City leaders, the Conneaut Port Authority and the Conneaut Foundation were honored for their work.

“This collaboration began over five years ago,” said Conneaut City Manager Jim Hockaday. Bill Kennedy and Kathy Zappitello, both of the Conneaut Foundation, and Bill Kline of the Conneaut Port Authority accepted the awards.

The President’s Award was given to recently retired Kent State Ashtabula Dean Susan Stocker for her long-term commitment to the organization. She said she didn’t know anybody when she attended her first dinner then became a board member and eventually board president.

Stocker also urged a young leader to step up and take over as president of the organization’s board of directors.

“James Mayer has been president for six-and-a-half years. It is time for someone to step up,” she said.

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