Once Again, Ed Burghard Gets It Right – Strengthening Brand America

If you haven’t read any of Ed Burghard’s posts and blogs, you really should.  Ed’s Strengthening Brand America is always thoughtful, reflective and based on experience.  I have commented quite a bit about community websites and what should be on them – especially as they relate to economic development.  In this particular post, Ed reinforces my previous posts and thoughts on the topic posted below.

http://strengtheningbrandamerica.com/blog/2009/04/key-to-stimulating-action-by-your-target-audiences-visual-value/?goback=%2Egde_3588654_member_199929530

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2012 to 2013…Here’s to This Year and Next Year

It’s that time of year that brings reflection and projection…how was last year?  What is in store for this year?  This past year, we went through some redirection and focus in our consulting business.  We changed our name from CDJ Consulting to Economic Development Data Services.  Our focus changed from general local government consulting services to focusing on economic development services and our flagship product: the Business Assistance Recruitment Calculator (BARC).

We now have the only comprehensive database of tax and utility information on communities in the state of Ohio.  One of our goals this year is to develop a system for accessing this information via one website and also finding investment to help construct the software and distribution system.  From there we will concentrate the same for other states.

We also entered the website market via the City of Newton Falls, Ohio.  They are also one of our BARC customers.   I even had the opportunity to visit the City of Piqua, ride my bicycle through western Ohio and make a presentation to their downtown association to talk about downtowns, cycling and economic development.

We have provided economic development plans/scenarios for cities in Ohio (Newton Falls and Louisville) – primarily for towns in the Utica Shale area.  We have also teamed up with Geneva Analytics and the Wise Economy Workshop in doing the same.  It is proving to be providing some fortuitous partnerships.

We’ve worked at publishing a newsletter through Rapid E Marketing.  You may be getting this.  If you would like to be added to it, please let us know.

So, here’s to 2013 and may great things be in store for us all!

Peace to you all!

©2012 Economic Development Data Services, Inc.

 

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Adios Tax Credits in Ohio?

Richard Florida recently released a study saying that tax incentives are becoming less of a location factor.  Similarly, the New York Times published a series on the use of tax incentives and the lack of a corresponding return on investment to states and localities.  It looks as if Gov. Kasich is developing a corresponding view for Ohio.

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/12/09/kasich-turning-from-tax-credits.html#comment

As a life long Ohioan, there are many great assets in Ohio: world class universities, available land, buildings, reasonable utility costs, a large supply of labor with a re-known midwestern work ethic.  There are entertainment complexes, fantastic suburbs, exciting large cities, and picturesque rural areas.  Every type of housing one could think of are found here; cities and towns with exemplary local services.  Ohio is a mix of traditional manufacturing, entrepreneurship, and to use Florida’s three T’s: technology, talent and tolerance (well, we’re working on that last one).

© 2012 Economic Development Data Services
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My Christmas Story (with apologies to Dr. Suess)

It is time to tell the story not oft told…mostly to youngsters not yet too old…Now there are stories as to how I got this gait, it happened a Christmas night so late

Some think I fell from my roof putting up Christmas lights, and that is somewhat true, and now the real story I will relate to you…

It was Christmas Eve, that very special night and I never thought it would be an eve of fright and fight.

Our family had returned from the Midnight Mass and sat to enjoy chocolate milk and sweets.  The moon beams bounced on a fresh fallen Christmas snow in rhythm with the childrens’ heart beats.

The homes of our neighborhood were cloaked in lights of many colors: a suburban aurora borealis.  The lights reflected and danced with the moonbeams in a way I not before seen.  It was indeed an air filled with magic and hope, if you know what I mean.

They were hung from roof lines, they were wrapped around porch pillars and they were hung from trees.  Some light strands were white, others were mixed colors, others flashed on and off much to my delight.

The lights are for more than decoration you know.  Yes, they do help to guide Santa Claus on his late night route, with his booming “HO HO HO.”

The lights are a sign of celebration -Indeed, a wonderous signification.

They remind us to celebrate the birth of God’s own Son, the Blessed One.

It was with this thought that we passed the creche in the living room, looking at the little one in His manger so low, knowing that His love, like those outside lights, will for us shine and glow.

Up the stairs we trudged after our long day, and to bed we went with no more delay.  Now, I think it is was two, or maybe it was three, could have even been four, when I heard a clanking noise on the house and I ran downstairs to the front door.

I was dressed in my favorite un-matching pajamas of blue plaid.  To my surprise and shock, the lights were gone from around our block – they had been had.  Not a sparkle, not a glint, not a twinkle was there.  How could this happen, how could this occur? It was as if a dark blanket had been spread – I could not get the scene through my head.

I did not like this, no, not one bit.  In this neighborhood now dark, I realized that on our little cul-de-sac, our house was the only one still lit.

I heard the clanging noise again and there he was with that snarly green grin. It was a site that caused me some confusion- a figment of of Dr. Seuss gave my brain sone diffusion.  He had a coat of green and red glowing eyes ever so mean. Yes, it was the Grinch – he looked straight at me with nary a flinch.

He snorted rather loud and in a haughty voice he said, “Your lights must go. This Christmas stuff is so last century, don’t you know?”  I was still somewhat stunned and taken aback – that I just could not believe that rude last crack.

“Oh no, that’s not true you evil Grinch, I just bought them today,” I retorted with a bite.  “The spirit of Christmas is so much more than just this light.  It is tie to which many of us bond and bind.  It will be with us till the end of time.”

“So says you,” says he, and as quick as a poof, up the ladder he scampered to the top of my roof.

Now, I have a fear of being up on such a height, but something stirred inside me and said, “Not this night.”

After him I chased and up the ladder I flew with a speed I never knew.  He was crouched down unclipping the lights from the roof’s edge.  I told him, “Stand away you grinch or I’ll throw you down into that hedge.”

He slowly turned as if he was bored, and spat, “Really.”  He dropped the strand of colored lights and slowly at me he came toward.

We grabbed at each other like those wrestlers on TV.  I became exasperated when I realized that my left arm was being bit!!!  I yelled out in pain and smacked him upside his little brain with a right hand hit.

We tussled and banged and smacked around some more – trading blows back and forth, all the while he did roar.

With every moment we moved moving closer to the edge and remembered my threat to throw him down to the hedge:  He moved his arm and took a misstep.  I reached low, picked him up, to give him a flip.  But lo, on my collar he had a firm grip and now my feet began to slip.

Over the edge we tumbled and fell.  On the ground we landed with a thud and I heard a loud snap and I let out a loud yell.

By now the commotion had woken my wife, family and neighbors, I think about three.

They looked out their windows to see me on the ground still wrestling with that creature in green – something they too were not sure they had really seen.

The Grinch somehow got up and ran away.  Some folks deny ever seeing him to this very day.  I tried to stand but found I could not. I was in a pickle, I was in a spot.

The Grinch in all of his his green skin so vile, jumped up and ran away, I imagine for a long long while.

Well, that is the story of my broken leg — the truth which like a hat, can be hung on a peg.  I took one for the team as they say, protecting the lights very early one Christmas day.

©Charley Bowman December 2012

Okay, I did not fall from my roof, nor did I break my leg.  I was up on the peak of my roof putting up Christmas lights on the peak of the roof when one of my older neighbors walked across the cup-de-sac and told me to come down from the peak so that I would not fall and break my leg.  Then it occurred to me that had I gotten the lights up AND had fallen, what a story I could spin!!   So there you have it!  Have a Merry Christmas!

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In One Door, In The Other Door

A crazy thing happened to me on the way to a village council meeting…I walked in with a contract for administrative consulting services and walked out/in with a contract to be the village administrator.  Of course, I wanted to hang on to my consulting practice which is just starting to take off, so it is a part-time gig.

The primary tool for this particular task was presented with a document/program entitled the Local Government Organizational Assessment.  This document covers every area of local government administration, some areas in general , some areas more specific.   The community is facing a triple whammy of (1) not having enough general fund monies to meet FY 2012 obligations, (2) inability to meet debt obligations for its water plant expansion and (3) being two years behind in combined sewer overload compliance.

This is not the first time I have encountered such problems in a small town.  These issues seem to arise as a result of a reform group running for office and the outgoing group spends down reserve funds or refuses to enact rate increases that would protect financial obligations or compliance issues.  Egos and malevolent behavior prevail.

The good news is that the newly elected reformers become interested in professional management of their local government.  Professionally trained local government managers are still the vanguard of reform in local government practices.   This is not to pat myself on the back, but rather a thank you to those who have come before me, inspired me, trained and mentored me.

Small communities need to take a good hard look at their system and seriously consider hiring a professional administrator or continuing the reform by adopting a charter form of government with a council-manager format.

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Cycling Piqua – Part 3

Entering New Bremen I was fascinated to see a building on the edge of downtown.  I had to look a few times and it wasn’t until I saw the 2007 cornerstone that I realized that this was a new building.  The building is a testament to small town pride and the integrity of companies willing to honor a community’s tradition.

Crown Corp building in New Bremen

I will say that I was disappointed that their Bike Museum was closed on Sundays.  From the window, it looked like it would be a fun visit.  Like the two previous downtowns, new Bremen was amazing.  The ability of these western Ohio communities to hold and preserve their architectural integrity and heritage is astounding.  Going through them is like a walk back in time – before shopping malls and strip centers…at least until I got to the east edge of town and then they all look alike.

Downtown New Bremen

Even having said that, these small towns with such rich architecture supply a visual oasis, an appreciation of place, history, craftsmanship and  and Ohio is richer for it.

Next down Route 66 was Minster.  I was really looking forward to Minster as I have spoken a number of times with Don Harrod, the Village Administrator.  This is a small town with an underlying energy.  Minster (population 2790) has its own swimming pool, and is part of the Miami to Erie Canal bike path (though I did not see it or use it) and is home to a very large Dannon Yogurt operation.  I love Dannon yogurt and have eaten it for years.  (I am very partial to its lemon and vanilla flavors).   Minster is preparing for an expansion of Dannon as they are reaching to meet the new demand for Greek yogurt (of which I am rapidly becoming a fan).

All that aside, Minster is very picturesque.  The neighborhoods that I rode through were quiet and well maintained.  Though the downtown was less than I expected, they have managed to hold on to their architectural heritage rather well.

The last town on my jaunt was to/through Fort Loramie.  This place took me back.  It reminded me a little of Burton, Ohio – not real active, but enough of an energy and town green park. I really got a kick out of the bank that is now a pizza shop – now that’s what I call creative re-use!

Fort Loramie Pizza — former bank building

Fort Loramie

Fort Loramie

The shade of the park provided a respite from the sun, as I was noticing clouds of various shades of gray to the south and west.  I was getting a bit worried about this time about the potential rain forecast I saw on TV before I left the hotel (did I mention that the hotel was right on the bike path!?!?!).   I recalled from my mapmyride map that from Fort Loramie, that the elevation as such that the ride back to Piqua was pretty much downhill.  It wasn’t a sudden downhill, but a very gradual grade.  I was looking forward to the last 20 miles – I can’t recall any ride where the last quarter has been on a decline.   With that elevation, I was feeling somewhat confident that I just might be able to beat the rain, though I did don my raincoat and helmet cover.

I was most impressed by the fact that as I was leaving Fort Loramie, there was a bike lane on Route 66 going south!  I had not seen any other bike lanes, though the berms on this ride were a good width and the drivers most polite, giving me a lot of room.  As much as I throughly enjoyed the day of riding, it was rather sad seeing corn and beans in a shades of brown and ears of corn underdeveloped.  Living in the suburbs, most of us are shielded from really seeing what drought looks, save what we see on TV.   Seeing it up close and personal is shocking.  I thought an awful lot about the farmers and their families and said a lot of prayers for them that day and since.

The last twenty miles was quite enjoyable – downhill always is – and I only got hit by a few drops.  Coming back into Piqua felt like coming home.   The bike path was so easy to find.

The Mad One (the bike’s name, not me) taking a rest before going back to the Comfort Inn.

I got back to the Comfort Inn and had a wonderful rest that only a long bicycle ride could bring.  The ride convinced me that Piqua is the bicycling hub of west central Ohio.  To be able to connect with these other towns so quickly and easily is for this cyclist, a grat way to spend a day.  I really cannot wait to go back to Piqua and explore some more of Ohio – I am thinking that this just might be an annual trip – and next time,  I am bringing some friends to join my new Piqua friends.  So, thank you Bill Lutz, Jim Hemmert, Lorna Swisher, Beppo Uno, Susie’s Big Dipper, and Main Street Piqua.  See y’all next summer.

 

 

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Cycling Piqua – Part 2

It has a been a week since I pedaled around Piqua and west central Ohio.  What a terrific weekend.  Last Sunday, I left my hotel room, jumped on the Piqua “linear park” aka Bike/Hike Trail.  The bike trail took me through downtown to the far west side of Piqua to Spiker Road.  From there I got on State Route 36 and rode to Greenville.  This stretch of road was fairly level.  The only bad part was where in their infinite wisdom, some engineer from the State of Ohio decided that the best way to patch the edge of the lanes and the berm was to apply chip and seal pavement.  This is horrible stuff to put on a state highway and even worse for a bicycle.

As is usual with me, I missed a turn, (people I ride with are used to this), and I am glad I did.  I rode into and through downtown Greenville.  Talk about another community that gets downtown right!  The vast majority of facades have been restored and revitalized.  Remember, I was riding through at about 11:00 in the morning, so it was pretty quiet.  There were terrific retail storefronts and a stunning courthouse.  We just don’t build commercial or civic structures in this country with the artistry that once was.  The pictures I took with my Blackberry  do not do it justice at all.

Greenville Courthouse

The Ohio Block – Downtown Greenville

Greenville is an important city to Ohio and to the states that were a part of  the Northwest Territory.  The Treaty of Greenville was signed in 1795 opening the Northwest Territory for settlement.  It is also home to Annie Oakley.  Greenville has done an outstanding job in preserving its heritage.   Parting from Greenville, I headed up Route 121 to Versailles – another real eye opener.

Side road along Route 121 to Versailles – way in the back is an old red brick farmhouse

Of course, in Ohio, we pronounce this town’s name Ver-Sales, not Ver-sigh, as do the French.  However, a portion of the downtown is straight out of Versailles, France.  The downtown is stunning and is deserving of everyone to visit there!  I would love to go back and stay and eat at the Versailles Inn.  This is a small town (pop. 2700) with a terrific industrial base.   By this time, I was pretty hungry and could not find any place close to downtown so I headed to the mill silos at the east end of town and found a Subway.  Subway has quickly become my cycling-restaurant-of-choice.  The folks there were quite friendly and made a great turkey sandwich (turkey. provolone, avocado spread, spinach, lettuce, tomato and cucumber and chocolate milk, chips and powerade) .  This added about 2 miles to my ride, and it was well worth the extra pedaling.

Versailles Inn

Courtyard in Downtown Versailles

After a good rest, I headed up to New Bremen – another picturesque small town.  On the way I came across a farm with gorgeous planting beds.  I just had to take pictures as I am also an avid gardener.  It’s things like this that make every ride just a little more interesting and fun.

Farm on the way to New Bremen

Cycling Piqua – Part 3 is on it’s way…..

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Cycling Piqua, Ohio — Part 1

What a treat!  I was invited to speak at the 2nd Annual Main Street Piqua meeting this past Monday.  My topic was “Downtowns, Cycling and Economic Development.”  It is one thing to go to a community and talk about cycling.  It is another to be invited to a community like Piqua that has a 14 mile in-city bike/hike trail.  Piqua has about 21,000 people and is what I call a stand alone city.  It is not part of a string of suburban communities.  It is not attached to an urban area.  It is surrounded for miles by agriculture. Lots of corn and beans. Lots of dairy farms. Piqua also played an important role in opening Ohio in the late 1700’s and early 1880’s.

As part of the visit I figured that I should become familiar with Piqua and its surrounding environs and spend the weekend and get some bike riding in.  I had the good fortune to have lodging arrangements made by Main Street Piqua and a riding partner was arranged by Bill Lutz of the City of Piqua.  Bill introduced me to Jim Hemmert who was to be my cycling guide, ambassador and new friend.   After a stop at Parkers Bike Shop and Smitty’s Bike Shop, I was ready to ride around town.

The Piqua Bike/Hike Trail through Downtown Piqua

Jim took me on a 25 mile jaunt through Piqua.  The bike/hike trail was spectacular.  The entire 14 mile loop stays within the city limits, bisects downtown, follows and crosses the Little Miami River, through a historic cemetery, forested areas, past three lakes, and loops the edge of the city.   Every few miles, the scenery changes in very exciting fashion.  It seems that every neighborhood has quick and easy access to the bike/hike trail.  In fact, the driveway of the Comfort Inn where I was calling home for the weekend is only a few feet from it’s driveway.  A person on a bicycle can be in Downtown Piqua in about 5 minutes!

The front door of the Comfort Inn is just a 1/4 mile to the Piqua bike/hike trail. I was downtown in less than 5 minutes.

The work that the Piqua community has undertaken to preserve its past and serve its present population is outstanding.  Areas that were once part of the Miami to Erie Canal have been paved over and for many years served as back alleys connecting streets and bringing delivery trucks to back doors that were once front doors to the canal.  Not anymore.  An  aggressive plan by the Main Street Piqua is working to reclaim these areas, recreating some of those old front doors.  Susie’s Big Dipper Ice Cream is one of the businesses participating in the project. (I highly recommend their butter pecan ice cream!).   Electric lamps and brick sidewalks have been started.  Additional plantings, paving and parking areas will complete the infrastructure portion of the project.  The rest of the stores in this section will be echoing Susie’s work.    I will add that in front of Susie’s is one of the many bike racks found in Downtown Piqua.

Canal Place – Susie’s Big Dipper’s back-door-front-door. The project is in progress.

Susie’s Big Dipper

Downtown Piqua is also home to Barclay’s – a third generation clothing store.  Barclay’s has completed extensive facade work.  Every detail of the outside “decorations” (I’m not an architect), are highlighted beautifully. My photo really does not do it justice.  They have a been a mainstay in Downtown Piqua for 3 generations.  Barclay’s is still a regional destination for clothes buyers in the Miami Valley area.  It is refreshing to see a store like Barclay’s that the community supports and in turn, Mr. Harrison, the proprietor is an outstanding supporter of his community.  Being as sweaty as we were at this point, it was better that we looked from the outside.

Barclay’s Downtown Piqua – Men’s & Women’s Clothiers

Jim and I finished our ride – I was awestruck with the beauty and care in which the path went through so many parts of the city — and always within the city limits.   Historical plaques highlighting Piqua’s rich history and contributions of many of its citizens are also found along the bike/hike trail.  Graffiti?  Barely.  If graffiti is found, citizens like Mr. Hemmert are quick to call City Hall and in no time, the graffiti is removed or covered over.  This community takes great pride in this asset and works hard to keep it attractive.

Gentleman that he is, Jim invited me to dinner with his lovely wife.  We went to Beppe Uno’s.  Now, I am used to really good Italian food – my wife Alberta is Italian and has spoiled me with her cooking.  I have to say that the spaghetti and meatballs at Beppe Uno’s matches my wife’s cooking.  Yeah, it’s THAT GOOD!  I even went back for lunch the next day.  As Bill Lutz and Lorna Swisher were having lunch, four ladies rode their bikes up to have lunch there.  It’s bike friendly too!

More in a day or two.  My head is still swimming (or would that be pedaling).  Next is the Fort Piqua Hotel.

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Cities/Villages with the Lowest Cost of Doing Business in Ohio – Part 2

As we commented in the previous blog, EDDS researched municipal income taxes, school income taxes, commercial/industrial property taxes, residential water and sewer rates (Ohio EPA survey of 2010) and county sales tax.  The next tier of 15 communities (from 11 – 25) with the lowest cost in 2010 were, in order (from least costly):

11)Belpre
12)Upper Sandusky
13) Sidney
14) Covington
15) Georgetown
15) Niles
16) Louisville
17) Bowling Green
18) Coshocton
19) Bryan
20) Tipp City
21) Bellefontaine (Logan)
22) Newark (Licking)
22) Avon (Lorain)
23) Rittman (Medina)
24) Minster (Auglaize)
25) Troy (Miami)

For more information and details about this, please feel free to contact us at
cbowman@econdevdataservices.com. We can also help you promote your standing as a low cost place to do business in Ohio.

 

©2012 Economic Development Data Services, LLC; All rights reserved.

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Small Towns and Cycling …. again!

August 30 2012: What an incredible day!  I woke up and decided that it was just time to go ride for a while.  A while turned into 90 miles.  Living in a community that is both suburban and on the rural edge makes getting out of town and into the rural hinterlands pretty easy.  I decided to tool on down to Louisville, Minerva and up to Alliance and then home.  In was an informative ride in terms of the three communities, places in between, and new technology – I’ll get to that one.

As I was pedaling south on State Route 44, I came across a caravan of trucks that were doing some sort of seismic testing – looking for natural gas deposits.  There were two young guys running door to door leaving notes on the front doors.  And behind the trucks, for miles were lines of orange electrical cords and black electrical cords connected to black plastic boxes.  Pretty amazing to watch.  I passed a fracking well that had been recently drilled in a farm hay field. The hay had been recently mowed and there was the wellhead with brine trucks lining up.  I am ambivalent about the whole fracking issue.  One the one hand, it is fascinating to read about and see new jobs in economically depressed areas of Ohio; to read of old steel plants coming back to life and new construction on the way.  The idea that job-starved eastern Ohio may have a shot as prosperity (or at least good paying jobs) is refreshing.  On the other hand, if the frackers get it wrong, there is an aquifer that runs through and provides drinking water to about 1/3 of the state and contaminating that drinking water source is a damn scary thought – an environmental disaster will be monumental – for both humans and the livestock that are also dependent on the wells that provide drinking water.

Riding through any part of rural Ohio is always brings surprising sites.  I passed a few dairy farms and this time a chicken farm!   Haven’t seen one of those in a while.  Unfortunately, I was too early for the ice cream store in North Baltimore – they have incredible home made ice cream.  Their peanut sauce is fantastic!  Obviously, I highly recommend it.  There is a group from Kent that regularly pedals the 25 miles to get there just to eat ice cream – yeah, it’s that good!

Being that I was going to be in Louisville, I stopped in to see City Manager Tom Ault.  Tom showed me the newly submitted site plans for the new Chesapeake Energy plans to develop the only undeveloped industrial park in town (300 acres).  It is an incredible looking plan that will hold about 300 – 400 new jobs.  (if we think about the multiplier effect, there could another 400 + spin-off jobs created in the area).  Tom is a very forward thinking manager and has spent a lot of time thinking about and talking with Council about what this new development means to the city today and years in the future.

Louisville is a quaint small city.  I pedaled out through the residential areas on East Avenue.  There is a beautiful canopy that spans the street.  The houses are older, and very well maintained and landscaped – it made for very comfortable cycling.  Like many older small cities though, the downtown needs a lot of work; the properties are suffering from decades of neglect and disinvestment.  Hopefully, the Chesapeake investment will lead to an invigorated downtown — and I think it will.  Louisville is certainly a community to watch.

Visiting Louisville City Hall

Visting Louisville City Hall

There is a 2.5 mile bike path to the north of downtown Louisville.  I don’t know what plans Stark County has to expand bike/hike trails.  I will say that they need to embrace them connecting Louisville to Canton and the North Canton area and other communities in Stark County.  A 2.5 mile trail is not a significant contributor to the community as a tourist attraction;  It can be however a significant contributor to the health of the community.  I am a tad biased – I see bike/hike trails as community and people connectors and an essential component to small town economic sustainability.

There are a series of backroads that I need to take to go from Louisville to Minerva.  This stretch of road leads me to a few “crossroad places.”  One of the things that fascinates me is the name of  the”places” I ride through: Paris, Freed, Israel.  These aren’t really towns — more like crossroads with a name.  Of course with my mind for musical trivia, after going through Paris and Freed, all I think of was Joni Mitchell’sFree Man In Paris.”  That played through my head for a good hour!  Beats talking to oneself…

Grabbed this little guy from the middle of the lane in Paris, Ohio

The view from atop a hill in Freed, Ohio

Minerva, on the other hand, has an entrance on Route 30 that needs some work, but their downtown is gorgeous.  This town is a real gem in Northeast Ohio that few people seem to know about.  The downtown area street is brick with historic era street lamps, brick inset sidewalks, and well maintained and full store fronts with antiques and an art studio or two.  Minerva Music is a really cool music store and Henri’s Cloud Nine is well known through Stark and Summit counties for having incredibly beautiful prom and wedding dresses.  Recently the Hart Mansion restaurant opened up near the downtown – it features a menu that will knock your socks off.  Being in spandex and a cycling jersey, I was not dressed to get lunch there, but all reports are that the trip is well worth it to eat here.

City Hall and brick streets in Downtown Minerva, Ohio

Americana in Minerva, Ohio. Very picturesque downtown.

The only down side of being in Minerva is that it is an eight mile series of uphill rides on Route 183 to get to Alliance, the home of University of Mount Union, (approx. 2,500 students), an excellent institution of higher education.   Alliance has about 22,000 people, far larger than Louisville or Minerva.  It is, like Louisville and Minerva, a stand alone city, with Mt. Union being a  a significant community anchor, though I am very surprised that there is no reference on their website to Mt. Union.  There are some neighborhoods that are a little run down- no different than any other place.  The curb/gutter actually made for good riding and the folks there were very accommodating to me and my bike.

The University of Mt. Union is a beautiful campus.  There has been quite a bit of new construction that honors and matches the architecture of the area.  These buildings are are not “interpretations” of Federalist architecture that substitute materials.  This is a comfortable campus – makes me wish I was young college student again.  I tip my cycling helmet to the board, administration and alumni of Mt. Union.

I’ve been through the main routes of Atwater, Randolph and Rootstown enough to be familiar with them and their respective pavements.  However, I never really paid attention to the houses.  All along Waterloo Road I became aware of the many 1 – 2 acre “sprawl” houses.  Enough has been said in other places about growth management in unincorporated areas.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons I like cycling out to “stand alone” cities and taking in these picturesque countrysides…man….what a great way to spend a day.

Next weekend I am going to Piqua, Ohio to ride that town’s bike/hike trails and the surrounding roads, weaving in and out of the downtown and then speak with their Main Street Piqua group about cycling and downtowns on Monday.   I am honored and excited, though I am not sure I can tell them anything. The City of Piqua has done some fantastic revitalization work including constructing bike/hike trails around their downtown — this town gets it!!!   I am sure that I will learn a lot.  In the meantime, if you don’t have one, go buy a road bike (and a helmet).  You’ll be glad you did.

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