Despite a struggling regional economy in recent years, entrepreneurship is alive and well in northwest Ohio. And I have fresh evidence.
For the last four decades, I have had the opportunity to meet many entrepreneurs and to study this different breed of risk-takers who seize the markets that others don't see and who often turn small companies into big enterprises.
In addition, I have been a judge for the region's "entrepreneur of the year" competition twice - in the early 1990s, and again this year.
The latest group of inductees into the Entrepreneurial & Business Excellence Hall of Fame prove that industrious folks still have the nerve to start businesses or to grow companies they acquired.
This time there were numerous other worthy nominees who didn't quite make the cut but who show how rapidly some young companies can grow and how opportunity abounds even in a stagnant economy.
Inductees this year were Robert Esplin, whose Sylvania Veterinary Hospital now has five full-time vets and eight veterinary nurses; Brian Reis, president of Ballreich Bros. Inc., a family-owned Tiffin maker of potato chips that began 87 years ago in a garage; Frederic Spurck, president of Webster Industries Inc., another Tiffin firm that began 130 years ago and now is a major supplier of conveyor systems; Shain Buerk, president of Scrambler Marie's Restaurants, a locally based chain of 14 units in a tri-state area; and Harley Cramer and Robert Huebner, founders of U.S. Coexcell Inc., a Maumee maker of plastic drums that benefited from the founders' background with Owens-Illinois Inc.
Two large businesses also were honored for business excellence in last week's induction ceremonies: General Motors Corp.'s Powertrain-Toledo plant, which is in the midst of a $1 billion expansion, and Perrysburg's First Solar Inc. plant, a key part of a fast-growing firm that grew out of technology introduced by a local inventor-industrialist, the late Harold McMaster.
In general, entrepreneurs have tremendous drive to succeed. They often are mavericks who achieve greatness on their own but would chafe under corporate bureaucracy.
They are restless, never satisfied. They see niches where other people see only cracks. They see opportunity where others see only problems.
Many times entrepreneurs bounce back from adversity. They hit bottom, only to rise to the top again. Sometimes, an entrepreneur even recovers from multiple failures.
They tend to be very hard workers, who know nothing about the 40-hour week.
Above all else, they take risks to attain their rewards.
Entrepreneurship has been good to northwest Ohio. Many of the region's largest businesses grew out of small firms founded by inventors and entrepreneurs.
If there's a difference nowadays it's that there seems to be an increased awareness of how entrepreneurial businesses affect employees and families and perhaps a greater sense of urgency - a reflection, no doubt, of the Internet-paced global economy.
But the basics of vision, restlessness, and drive never change.
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