Greater Lima Region Inc. invests in area

LIMA — Greater Lima Region Inc.’s goal is to spur economic development in the region.

Sometimes that means doing something unexpected, like helping investors buy, renovate and then sell fixer-upper houses.

“We see housing as an economic development issue,” said Doug Olsson, president and CEO of Greater Lima Region Inc. “If you talk to a lot of employers in the region — Nutrien, Procter & Gamble, the hospitals — who are bringing employees in, we need places for those people to live in order to attract them into the region, right? In many cases, we see mid-level managers at some of these companies looking in Findlay. That’s fine, but we’d like to keep the employees in the region living in the region.”

GLR is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. It has more than 80 dues-paying members, companies that share an interest in improving the region’s economy. It doesn’t receive any government funding, and it follows the directions of an active board, including chairman Phil Buell, of Superior Credit Union; vice chair Ronda Lehman, of Mercy Health-St. Rita’s, and secretary/treasurer Mike Swick, of Lima Memorial Health System.

In the past year and a half, the group focused on improving properties in Census Tract 129, just north of Mercy Health-St. Rita’s.

That area was selected in part because only one-third of the homes were owner-occupied. GLR wants to see the area “thrive and flourish with a higher percentage of homeownership,” Olsson said. Many of the homes were built more than 100 years ago.

The group worked with Lima business leader Tracie Sanchez on several projects, with the first of them just turning around for sale now.

“We want to be a partner, really, with developers who have business plans of their own,” said Olsson, who led the GLR since June 2019 but plans to retire this summer. “We want to come in and help them build out those business plans. We want to help them fund their early stages and be a minority partner on the project. We typically look for something that we can come in at around a 15% to 20% equity stake. That’s also important: We don’t issue grants. We take equity positions in projects.”

GLR is an outgrowth of the former Lima Visionaries organization. Like its predecessor, it helps fund the private portion as investor in public-private partnership economic organizations, such as Allen Economic Development Group, Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, Putnam County Community Improvement Corporation and Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council.

“Those organizations are all public-private partnerships, meaning they’re not fully funded by their local governments,” Olsson said. “… Those organizations are critical, because they’re the feet on the street. They’re working with putting in roads, putting in sewer lines, putting in buildings to attract new businesses. They’re kind of the foot soldiers that are doing that everyday work. GLR providing some of the operating funding relieves them from that pressure of trying to raise funds.”

The organization often works behind the scenes, although it got some spotlight when it bought the naming rights to the Greater Lima Region Park & Amphitheater, which opened in August 2023 along Spring Street in downtown Lima.

“They held three consecutive days of concerts there,” Olsson said. “People from all over the region attended those concerts. And I heard as I walked around on those evenings so many people say, “Boy, I haven’t been to an event in Lima in a long time. And look at what’s happening here.’”

It’s been an exciting time to help, breaking away from some of the pessimism that plagued Lima in the past.

“I am surrounded by believers, and that’s encouraging,” Olsson said. “I will say we’re hearing less and less of the pessimism about the potential of the region. … There is a concerted effort and awareness of that perception. We want to help educate people that it’s changing quickly.”


Many businesses and organizations started right here in the Lima region, with the goal of making an impact in the region. This year’s Celebrating Our Spirit looks at those trailblazers. Read more stories at

Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.