LIMA — Run down. Shady. Violent.
When asked about downtown Lima’s perception, Columbus Grove High School students were quick to add some harsh labels. But by the end of the day, Allen Economic Development Group President/CEO Dave Stratton hoped to spark their imagination on what the city could be.
“We want you to start feeling proud of where you live,” Stratton said.
Working together with business teacher Andy Schafer, Stratton spent the day giving the group of high school freshmen from Putnam County an inside look at some of the ongoing developments and vacant spaces in the city as part of a multi-year business course at Columbus Grove.
The program, which teaches economics, finance, marketing and business courses throughout a student’s high school career, aims to prep students for taking steps in entrepreneurship, and today’s tours worked as research for the students. After the field trip, they’ll be expected to craft business plans for the spaces.
But while students get a lesson from the tours, economic officials can also learn something from the students. Stratton said the results of their schoolwork can be used as business inspiration for those with more experience — especially as developers consider what businesses will thrive under the next generation.
“That’s the kind of vision we need to have in Lima, Ohio,” Stratton said.
During the tours, Stratton laid out his own vision of the city to the students to get them thinking. While Lima may never be able to match the number of activities available in a major metropolitan city, he said, the amount of amenities in the city for its size is a valuable selling point. Combine that with the cost of living and quick drive times, and Lima’s downtown could draw a sizable crowd of young people looking for a downtown experience.
The final tour of the day featured a peek into what business owner Rob Nelson called “Lima’s first brewery.” Currently mostly empty, the warehouse space at 330 N. Central Ave. is expected to be flipped into another downtown venue starting in June.
As students stood in the huge space, Nelson tested their business acumen and explained his ideas pointing out a vision of a 500-person-capacity blue-collar brewery with live entertainment and the latest features. Over the years, Nelson said he is looking to add additional space on the second floor and basement.
“Our goal is to grow where we live,” Nelson told the students. “We chose to be in Lima.”
Not long after, audible sirens from a passing EMS spooked some of the students, and it took a quick explanation — the Lima Fire Department is just a few blocks away — to curb worries.
“So we get people (at The Met) from all over the place. I hear stereotypes every week,” Nelson said.
By the end, at least some of the students had changed their minds.
“When I first came here, I was skeptical, but I got an idea of what (the city) could be,” freshman Gwen Langhals said before getting on a school bus to head to The Met for lunch.
Other buildings toured on Tuesday by the group included the future site of the Walter C. Potts Entrepreneur and Technology Business Incubator of Northwest Ohio, 219 S. Central, as well as 215 W. Market St. and the Enterprise Building at 201 W. Market St.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.