Submitted by ECEDC
The Erie County Economic Development Corporation held its annual meeting and awards ceremony on Sept. 27, at Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky.
Executive Director, Abbey Bemis, presented on progress within Erie County and accomplishments of ECEDC’s programs and activities. ECEDC’s work concentrates on supporting business and building an environment conducive to growth. Momentum continues in the community, and Bemis stated that the ECEDC team tracked a record breaking $681,007,148 in capital investment through projects announced, completed or underway in the past year. This capital investment led to the creation of over 1,000 jobs and the retention of approximately 1,500 jobs in our county.
ECEDC President, Ted Kastor, shared the great progress the organization has made over the past year, including recent national recognition for the RISE, MBET, and Firelands Forward programs from the International Economic Development Council.
This event garnered interest of more than 400 business and community leaders. Paul Koch, Vice President Civista Bank and ECEDC Board Member presented the annual awards given on behalf of ECEDC to local leaders and businesses who have had a large impact on our community. Presentations highlighted leadership, momentum and enhanced cooperation across Erie County and included a surprise for 2 of the recipients, McKenzie Spriggs and Eileen Bulan.
Economic development award recipients included:
Deal of the Year: American Colors
The “Deal of the Year Award” recognizes a business that values Erie County as a strategic location and organizations who support their investment in the community.
American Colors recently broke ground on their $4M+ expansion of their current facility in Sandusky and is expanding their staff to over 70 employees once complete. This international company selected the Sandusky site for expansion given its unique capabilities and their commitment to the community. This expansion will increase production capacity and product offerings, supporting their position as an industry leader.
Entrepreneur of the Year: Everwild Spirits
The “Entrepreneur of the Year” recognizes individuals, companies or organizations that have demonstrated outstanding business inspiration and ambition in the creation of a new product, service or establishment.
Everwild Spirits, a bourbon distillery and tasting room opened a new location in downtown Sandusky in 2022. The project transformed an underutilized building with an investment of $1.4 m and 11 new employees. Owners Rick and Gia Lynch have a long family history in the distilling business dating back to the late 1800’s with Ricks great-great-grandfather having started his own distilling business in Oswego, New York. Rick and Gia took that family history and brought it to Erie County. The production and tasting of their bourbon can be experienced at their location in downtown Sandusky while their packaging and distribution takes place in Huron. Everwild Spirits is quickly expanding, providing premium bourbon to many regional establishments.
Visionary Leadership: Larry Fletcher, President of Shores and Islands Ohio
The “Visionary Leadership Award” recognizes outstanding efforts in economic development. This award is presented to a leader whose visionary contributions have broken social, political, or economic barriers, thereby opening doors and setting a new course for Erie County.
Larry Fletcher alongside his team at Shores and Islands Ohio have set out to make the Shores and Islands region a top destination to visit, live, work and play in the Midwest. Through his leadership, he and his team have attracted countless tournaments and conferences and amazing events like the recent Ironman competition. The organization has also recently expanded its scope to more proactively develop the destination they promote – offering economic development grants that improve tourism and quality of life assets. Larry has worked tirelessly to bring his vision of tourism to the Shores and Islands region and to educate residents on the value of this economy, beginning with his time as Director of the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau to now as President of the newly rebranded Shore and Islands Ohio serving both Erie & Ottawa counties.
Lifetime Leadership Award: Eileen Bulan, President of Main Street Vermilion & Former City of Vermilion Mayor
The “Lifetime Leadership Award” is presented to advocates who have made extraordinary contributions toward the vision of a vibrant Erie County over the course of their career. They have exemplified dedication, integrity and honorable service to our community.
Eileen Bulan has embodied what it truly means to be a public servant. After years working for the City advancing initiatives and understanding its needs, Eileen was elected Mayor. Eileen brought steady leadership to the City of Vermilion during both difficult and exciting times. Even after retirement, she serves on a number of boards and committees that serve the City and has played a leading role in the Main Street Beach Project that provides the community with a public treasure.
Talon Flohr Young Professional of the Year Award: McKenzie Spriggs, Director of Development and Marketing
The Young Professional of the Year recognizes individuals under the age of 45 for outstanding contributions, engagement and commitment to a brighter future in Erie County.
McKenzie Spriggs has played an active, energetic, and positive role in our community since her move home seven years ago. Beginning first with the City of Sandusky during the planning and execution of the Sandusky Bicentennial Celebration as a lead coordinator to now working with the Erie County Community foundation where she assists in a number of different projects and nonprofits. McKenzie has a talent for spreading good news and ensuring her community is one for others to watch. Her energy and positive mentality have been said to be infectious, always ready to cheer others on, lend a hand, and work towards the common goal.