Jobs and businesses are continuing to grow in Tiffin, and the expansions being made are benefitting Tiffin's residents.
Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. CEO Rich Focht said Tiffin began to improve about 20 years ago when the city started to change its philosophy on economic development.
In the past, Tiffin was reluctant to take chances and relied on out-of-town individuals and business owners to make investments in Tiffin, he said.
He said that when SIEDC started intervening, local companies began to expand and other companies came into the area, including Taiho Corp. of America, which made its first American investment in Tiffin.
SIEDC also assisted in filling vacancies in the old Walmart, Kroger and Ames buildings.
"Because we had done the groundwork we were eventually able to see those properties develop," he said. "Today, those three buildings that were vacant five years ago employ over 600 people."
The Seneca County Job Fair conducted in May also contributed to major changes, he said.
"It accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish," he said. "We hope that it continues on, which it will. We're planning right now for next year."
Manufacturers and other businesses also are building and expanding.
According to Richland County Department of Building Regulations Director and Sanitary Engineer Steve Risser, the total number of construction projects through July was 60, compared to a total of 68 in 2012 and 73 in 2011.
Risser explained that construction and expansion projects always are the first to lag during a recession and will take the longest to restore. So far, Seneca, Huron and Wyandot counties all have begun to speed up production of projects, including high dollar projects such as schools.
In 2011, Seneca County had six projects each costing $1.2 million or more.
Clouse Construction Corp. President Lenny Clouse has been doing construction work in Seneca County and the surrounding areas for several decades, but Clouse said he has done more work in Tiffin recently than he has in years.
In the past year and a half, Clouse Construction has completed expansions at Laminate Technologies, Arnold Machine Inc., American Fine Sinter Company and Coppus Motors' Mercedes Benz and Chrysler dealerships.
It also built the new Juvenile Detention Center.
Clouse said the company is 70 percent done with an expansion at Taiho, along with building a new truck drive.
Clouse recently started a 40,000-square-foot building at Jacobson Manufacturing and is working on an addition and complete renovation for the Chevrolet and Buick GMC dealers with Baumann Automotive Group.
In addition, Clouse said the company is completing work on TJ Willies and expanding the New Riegel Moose Lodge, a project that has been planned since 1978.
Clouse said at this point, his company is doing its best to assist entities in the county to expand.
"As a design/build company, we look at a project, we try to help the customers solve their problems for space, management, office expansions. We're very helpful trying to put the whole thing together," he said. "In the essence, we always try to be helpful in showing them different options, so we really give something to choose."
Even so, Clouse said expanding can be a struggle.
"It's always a struggle in every project getting through all the paperwork and the permitting process," he said. "Now, there's been quite an upswing in the construction business, so it's been a little more difficult finding subcontractors and employees who get the projects done on time."
The expansion has also helped out his company.
"In the last year and a half, we've done more work in Seneca County," Clouse said. "If I had to guess, there's more going on right now in Seneca County than what there are in any surrounding counties."
According to Focht, the expansion and growth comes from the individuals in Tiffin.
"It goes back to a willingness to take a chance on yourself," Focht said. "That's the one thing that I really want our community to learn. When we're willing to take that risk on ourselves, whether as individuals, as companies, as a community, and work hard, there's a lot of positive things that come out of that. We're seeing a lot of success here because we did that."
Phoebe's, at 138 S. Washington St., offers vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and healthy food options to Tiffin residents.
After opening April 22, owner Wendy Welly said business is going well.
"It was very scary, but it was also very exciting," she said.
She sells foods that do not include any parts produced or from animals, along with organic foods and those without genetically modified organisms.
It helps people who have different types of intolerances, she said. She also sells products from Rock Run.
She intends to make several improvements, including adding more shelves for products.
She is also making additions to her menu, including "unique" specials.
Welly said most of her customers either know what they are looking for or are curious about what the store provides.
"The customers are remarkable and very insightful," she said.
Welly said she would like to partner with art students at Heidelberg University and Tiffin University. She would like to display and possibly help sell their art in the store.
So far, Welly has enjoyed being a part of the Tiffin community.
"The community is awesome," she said. "We've felt very welcome."
Ro Ro Design, LLC
After almost a year in business, Rochelle Slosser, the owner of Ro Ro Design, 164 S. Washington St., said business is booming.
She said her parents own the building and had difficulty finding renters until they decided Slosser would take the storefront.
She said she frequents flea markets and garage sales and creates upcycled items to sell in her shop, along with jewelry and antiques.
She also creates wedding invitations, stationery, save-the-dates, programs, table numbers and other items for weddings.
"I'm really seeing progress," she said. "Most of my business is through word of mouth."
Slosser also maintains a design business. In the past, she has worked with the Tiffin Seneca County Heritage Festival and Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services in creating brochures, billboards and ads.
"The Chamber has been really supportive," she said.
Ro Ro Design is open 1-5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 1-5 p.m. Wednesday and noon-3 p.m. Saturday.
Phat Cakes and Cafe
Phat Cakes and Cafe owner Natalie Wertz said the community has been an important and growing part of her business.
Wertz began selling cakes from her house in 2009 and expanded to 45 S. Washington St. in March 2012.
So far, Wertz has expanded the menu from cupcakes and sweets to sandwiches, soups, paninis, salads and wraps, along with wine and craft beers.
Wertz said she has started offering three dinner specials 5-9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
"They're all made-to-order, with fresh ingredients, top of the line specials," she said. "We've done homemade noodles, we want to do lobster ravioli. We've done prime rib a couple of times, and we've gotten dozens of phone calls because they want it back again."
Wertz said she is expanding the wine selections and craft beers.
"We've got a few new bottled beers," she said. "We have five craft beers on tap and we want to try to get people excited about craft beers."
She said she plans to schedule a beer tasting in the future.
All of the ingredients Wertz uses are fresh and items are made from scratch. "Everything we make is lean and healthy," she said.
Wertz also said that they may start a Grab and Go service, where pre-made items would be available.
"We're still getting a lot of new people in, so our customer base is definitely growing," Wertz said.
Bunky's Bicycle Service
Mark Bunky has had "a phenomenal season" at his bicycle service behind Phat Cakes and Cafe.
"I've been almost overbooked all summer with repair work," he said. Bunky said no expansions are planned, but he has begun selling new bicycles along with doing repairs.
"Originally, I was not going to sell new bicycles, but Tiffin forced me into it and that's went very well," he said.
Bunky's also offers a community bike ride at 7 p.m. every Thursday, starting at Bunky's parking lot and going on about a 7-mile ride.
"When you come back in from the bike ride, you can go up front and have a cold craft beer at Phat Cakes," Bunky said. He said his business works well with Phat Cakes. "We kind of play off of each other. It's worked really well," he said.
Bunky said he would attempt to be open during the winter for those who need repairs.
"That would be the prime time to get your bicycle repaired," he said.
Bunky said that he has been well received by the community.
"A big thank-you to the community of Tiffin, Ohio, because it's been a phenomenal season," he said.
After a year, Heidelberg University's Saurwein Health and Wellness Center has received much support from the community. The 22,000-square-foot center has cardio and weight-training areas available for community members. The area, meant to compliment the facilities at Tiffin Community YMCA, is available to all students, students' guests, members of the faculty and staff and community members with memberships to the YMCA.
Director of Wellness and Healthy Living Kayela Tidrick said, "All community members can come in as guests up to five times. If you are a Y member, you have access to the facility."
Due to its dual purpose of serving the community and the university, community members are asked to limit their visits to before 3 p.m.
In addition to the partnership with the YMCA, Tidrick said the facility has had support from community involvement.
" We've had speakers in regards to alcohol awareness week that was open to the public, and we're looking to expand that and get as many contacts out in the community as we can," she said. Riehm Farms also has given presentations at the facility.
Tidrick said the community has reacted positively to the center and more improvements are coming in the future.
"We're looking to always improve and keep on the current trends and the best practices," she said. "I think we're going to see a lot more different types of programs come out and hopefully be able to involve the community a little bit more and reach out to some of the businesses that may be able to provide a service to our students or our faculty."
Tiffin University just completed its first year in the Heminger Center, a $13 million athletic facility that houses indoor track, football and athletic offices and is able to host campus and civic activities.
Jeremy Croy, assistant athletic director, said the facilities have been used for blood drives, weddings, football practices, soccer practices and lacrosse practices. The facility also has several conference and multipurpose rooms for use, along with a smoothie bar that can be open during events.
This summer, high school football used the indoor facility, along with marching bands and other sports, he said.
Because of the facility's size, teams do not have to share locker rooms or practice space.
"They don't have to have practices at 6 a.m. or until 10 p.m.," he said. The indoor facilities also provide a better place to practice in the winter months. Croy said, "(Student athletes) don't have to practice out in the snow."
In the indoor track field, they can host corporate events, trade shows or conferences. Croy said more than 1,500 athletes attended the center's first track meet.
The university also does not have to organize separate graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies now that space is available at Heminger Center.
"We fit 5,000 people in here for graduation," he said.
It can be rented, but priority goes to students.
Bailiwicks Coffee Co.
Bailiwicks Coffee Co. has been growing since it came to Tiffin in March 2011.
"We wanted to be a hang-out spot," owner Jess Williams said. "So far, we're achieving that."
Williams said that the business has a wide spectrum of people who visit, including college students and professionals.
People often conduct meetings or interviews at the business, Williams said. Recently, the Tiffin University Business Department has utilized Bailiwicks for meetings.
She said that since Bailiwicks opened, the business has re-evaluated and expanded its goals.
"Everyone is very welcoming," Williams said. "It's very busy."
Along with its informal Cars and Coffee event on occasional Saturdays, Bailiwicks features live music 6-8 p.m. every Wednesday.
Williams said she has expanded hours. Bailiwicks now is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. -5 p.m. Saturday.
"We feel very positive," she said. "We're still thrilled to be here."
Baumann Auto Group
Baumann Chevrolet Buick GMC is remodeling the 2291 W. SR 18 location. General Manager Dave Conn said the location is increasing the size of the service department and remodeling the show room.
Conn called it the "first true expansion" and is to add up to $1.5 million in improvements.
The work is being done by local company Clouse Construction Corp. for its improvements.
"We're keeping everything as local as possible," Conn said.
Improvements have led to the addition of five to eight jobs.
Conn said that while construction is affecting customers, he hopes the work will "give the right impression."
He also said the expansion is helping create "a new image on the west end of town."
"With growth comes turmoil," he said. "It's going in the right direction."