LIMA — The new and improved employment center for OhioMeansJobs and the Allen County Department of Jobs and Family Services is open for business.
Located just south of Interstate 75 at 951 Commerce Parkway, the 45,000-square-foot building had acted as Lima Memorial Health System’s Heart Institute of Northwest Ohio when it was built 11 years ago. But today, with a few new coats of paint and some mild renovations, the place has been reborn as the region’s new jobs epicenter.
The county’s DJFS offices had been located at 1501 S. Dixie Highway, but Executive Director Joe Patton requested proposals back in April 2018 from the wider community to see if a better more efficient situation could be found.
Lima Memorial Health System offered the Heart Institute building. If the department, backed by state funds, could provide $7.6 million over a 25-year-period, Allen County would eventually be able to buy the building at the end of the lease for $1. The county agreed.
Since that time, Patton and Allen County has been flipping the space. A new coat of paint and some carpeting updated the look of the building, and many of the 100-or-so employees of the department, such as job coaches, grabbed new more-private offices after spending years in cubicles. Other tweaks included updating the signage, adding computer space for customers looking to apply for jobs and creating a welcoming front lobby.
“I wanted it be a little more open and inviting,” Patton said.
During a brief tour Tuesday, a number of residents sat in the lobby waiting to be called as their children used a corner play-space. In another corner, additional desks will be equipped with computers so visitors can easily apply for government benefits through an online portal.
On the other side of the building, additional rows of computers give customers access to online job applications.
Traffic access also has been improved thanks to the new building, Patton said. Prior to the move, the roughly 275 daily visitors of the department used a parking lot across the street, and many disabled and elderly had a tough time crossing the busy road with poor sight lines because of a bridge. Now, they can be dropped off at the front entrance, and an expansive parking lot allows for visitors.
The Allen County Regional Transit Authority also runs a fixed route to the center, and Patton said he’s working to add a bus stop.
But while the updated Heart Institute building offers a better environment for employees and customers, the capstone will be an 8,000-square-foot conference center currently being constructed just behind the building. Once finished, Patton said the entire complex will serve as a destination center for 43 counties throughout Ohio looking for convention or training space due to the center’s proximity to I-75 and its neighboring manufacturers.
The largest room — at least as large as a high school gymnasium — will be available for businesses as a training or convention space. Patton pointed out that the room can be segmented for use if multiple businesses are looking to use it at the same time, and once finished, the space will be equipped with large displays for training or speakers.
“What’s nice about this is it’ll be available for businesses after hours,” Patton said.
The final product, estimated to cost just over $1 million in state funds to build, is estimated to be completed in roughly a month’s time.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.