LIMA — Twenty members of the 2021 Allen Lima Leadership Class of 2021 got encouragement Friday from the owner of a downtown business who believes Lima has plenty to be excited about.
Allen Lima Leadership is a county-wide leadership program that develops adult and youth leaders for the community. It is beginning its fourth year in existence.
ALL participants started their day with a study session and then toured the facilities at Wannemacher Total Logistics. That was followed by a luncheon at the Met, an anchor in downtown Lima. Owner Rob Nelson talked about economic development in the city and the perils and joys associated with starting a business.
Nelson said The Met, which now has 31 employees (down from 59 pre-COVID-19), has been in business for nine years at the corner of North and Main streets. It was five years before the restaurant saw a profit.
“We lost money the first few years because, frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Nelson said. “But we believed that Lima needed a place for professionals to go, and you all started to support us, which was great.”
Nelson said the opportunity is ripe for other entrepreneurs to start a business in Lima.
“We have $75 million worth of new projects going on in Lima right now, and there are investors who are interested in putting more money into the downtown. That’s what we need,” Nelson told the class. “What we also need is housing. There’s not much decent (housing) stock in Lima right now, and that’s a problem.”
Nelson said it is imperative that Lima recognize what is needed to keep high school and college graduates from leaving the area.
“We have to embrace who we are, but at the same time we just have to give people things to do,” he said.
Nelson took the class on a tour of a new brewery, owned by his wife, that is planned around the corner from The Met. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed progress at the brewery, Nelson said, as investors go through the process of lining up necessary tax credits. The brewery at the corner of North Street and Central Avenue had been expected to begin construction by the end of the year, but that deadline has since been pushed back.
Nelson also said the city of Lima’s attempt this summer to obtain $10.5 million in federal funding in order to update underground infrastructure and streetscaping in a group of 20 blocks east of Main Street was not successful. The plan called for street updates — improved decorative lighting and parking bump-outs — in the area bordered by Wayne, Main and Elm streets and the railroad tracks near Central Avenue.
Nelson said the city plans to re-apply for grant funding in the next round of applications.