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Published: Friday, 12/31/2004

Beverage pact could bring in $1M to Owens

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Coke is it, at least at Owens Community College.

The two-year school has signed its first "pouring rights" agreement with a beverage company, a pact that should allow Owens to bring in more than $1 million over five years - if people drink up.

The contract, which largely is based on consumption, specifically calls for the college to receive 58 percent of the Coca-Cola Co.'s sales monthly, $270,000 more over the contract period, and possibly $10,000 more each year, said Gary Dettling, vice president of college advancement at Owens. In turn, Coke will have exclusive rights

on the school's campuses, one in Perrysburg Township and the other in Findlay.

Vending machines containing food and snacks will be managed separately at the Toledo-area campus by Fostoria native Robert McDivitt, who is blind. He was hired recently following an agreement between Owens and a state business enterprise program for the visually impaired.

"Between the two of them, we think we're going to get enhanced service and a better product line," Mr. Dettling said.

The changes will be completed before students return to class on Jan. 10, with new machines - many with a card- reader setup - installed and in place.

But the narrowed choice of soda shouldn't make too many people gulp - at least at the Toledo-area campus. For the last year, Coke had had a temporary agreement with Owens and its products already represented the majority of beverages offered there.

In Findlay, though, students had been able to purchase Coke and Pepsi products at a like number of machines.

Mr. Dettling said the revenue generated from the contract will be used for student-related renovation projects, such as the Fountain View Dining Hall located in College Hall. The money is viewed as a benefit to the college, where leaders are bracing for possible cuts in the higher education budget statewide.

"With the current unknowns in the state budget, it's important to explore alternate revenue sources," Mr. Dettling said.

A similar pouring-rights agreement was signed in 2001 between Bowling Green State University and Pepsi-Cola General Bottlers of Ohio Inc., which called for a $2.2 million, 5 1/2-year deal.

The Coke contract at Owens was devised recently after the college in August reached a separate agreement with the Ohio Rehabilitation and Services Commission's Bureau of Service for the Visually Impaired.

Last year, officials at the community college did not renew a contract with the program, saying the provider - who then handled beverage and food sales - could no longer meet its needs. College officials also said they planned instead to seek an exclusive pouring-rights deal with another provider.

The five-year agreement reached between Owens and the commission allows for the new vendor, Mr. McDivitt, to sell food and snacks but not drinks in machines across campus. In exchange, Mr. McDivitt will receive an annual sum from the college.

Owens will provide $30,000 the first year, with $1,000 added to that sum in each of the following four years.

Mr. McDivitt, 25, formerly worked in the Youngstown area and serviced a post office, a rest stop, and a veterans hospital, among other locations. He said his goal, though, has been to return to northwest Ohio for work.

"I've been interested in Owens for a long time now," he said.

At this point, Mr. McDivitt's only job will be the one at Owens, where he should make at least $70,000 annually.

"Right now we're focusing exclusively on Owens because it's such a big contract to get, and we're glad to have it," Mr. McDivitt said. "It's going to be a daily route. It looks like it's going to be a booming place."

In addition, Coke has also guaranteed to have someone working on campus about 20 to 30 hours a week.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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