Ottawa County Improvement Corporation Recognizes Business Leaders

Posted on: March 15, 2019

This year’s OCIC Business & Industry Awards event took on a new and interactive format that recognized achievements of our business and community leaders; examined strategies for success amongst our winners; and looked at economic projections for the 2019 year. This years’ award categories included achievement, entrepreneur of the year, business of the year, Bill Mack business leader, and volunteer of the year. 

Achievement Awards

There were two 2018 Achievement Awards recognizing 150 years of business. The first Achievement Award was presented to Gordon Lumber to recognize 150 years in operation. Gordon Lumber has served northwest Ohio since 1868 and has achieved success through key principles such as maintaining hometown pride, ensuring employee longevity, and having a dedicated staff that provides exemplary service to customers. In 2018, Gordon Lumber was honored with a Family Business Achievement Award at the 2018 Smart Business Family Business Conference and celebrated 150 years with the Gordon Lumber employees and families at the Toledo Mud Hens Fifth Third Field.

The second Achievement Award was presented to The Village of Genoa to recognize 150 years in operation. The Village of Genoa was established in 1835 and was originally named Stony Ridge. Legend tells us that the town was looking to be renamed ‘Venice’ but when the representative making the request arrived to the state capital, they forgot which Italian town they were going to name the village and ended up choosing ’Genoa.’ The Grand Army of the Republic/Women’s Relief Corp. Hall is one of the most important landmarks in the village and was used as a post for 200 Civil War Veterans. It even hosted President Rutherford B. Hayes and 5 Civil War Generals for the 100th Ohio Voluntary Infantry’s reunion.

Entrepreneur of the Year

The Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Wine Flight, located in downtown Elmore.  Wine Flight opened in 2017 and local owners Tony and Rebekah Zimmerman brought their love of aviation to the business concept. The retail shop and bar includes a selection of 200+ wines and a large variety of craft beer; a variety of seasonal and staple farm-to-table foods; and encouraging customers to order from local restaurants and enjoy at Wine Flight with a specialty beverage. Wine Flight hosts cooking classes, wine education workshops, yoga with wine, trivia nights, and features live entertainment.

Business of the Year

The Business of the Year award was presented to the Boardwalk Family of Restaurants.  The Boardwalk Family of Restaurants, owned by the Booker family, provides a wide variety of island experiences that offer something for everyone. The Booker family has embarked on several investment projects over the years that have changed the landscape of the Put-in-Bay Harbor, including a multi-million dollar expansion at the Boardwalk Restaurant in 2007, the addition of The Keys property in 2011 and recent investments in employee housing facilities. 

Bill Mack Business Leader Award

The Bill Mack Business Leader Award recognizes an individual business leader for their work and support of the community.  This year, the OCIC recognized Bob Babjack, Plant Manager of The Chipmatic Company.  Bob is responsible for the day-to-day operations and efficiencies of the plant and feels his employees are an extension of his family. Learning of an employee’s struggles with addiction, Bob and his employees strived to understand the issues with addiction and how to create an environment of support. Bob’s response to the employee truly embodies leadership.

Volunteer of the Year

The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Ron Lajti, Ottawa County Engineer. As County Engineer, Ron oversees all construction and maintenance projects in the county. Ron has partnered with OCIC in a number of ways to enhance private sector investments and support career readiness. He worked with OCIC on a $950,000 public infrastructure improvement project along Lake Street at U.S. Gypsum’s plant, receiving funding from ODOT and JobsOhio. Ron participates in the Business Advisory Council’s annual Career Showcase, has provided support to OCIC’s partnership with Volvo Penta’s marine training program, and serves as a Trustee of the OCIC.

“Strategies of Success”

After the awards were presented, Rebekah and Tony Zimmerman, Eric Booker, Bob Babjack, and Ron Lajti each discussed their “strategies for success.” This panel served as a way to help gather new ideas for local businesses and individuals.

2019 Forecast

Following the Strategies for Success panel, local business representatives presented a 2019 Forecast for Ottawa County. Brian Harr with First National Bank spoke to the audience regarding the financial industry; Kyle Dodd with the Rudolph Libbe Group gave an update on future projects in the construction industry; Larry Fletcher with Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands spoke on the County’s tourism sector; and at the workforce level, John Trott with the Area 7 Workforce Board discussed the changing workforce landscape and challenges employers are facing with recruitment, and the workforce development resources that employers have access to.

The OCIC’s 2019 Business & Industry Awards event was held on Wednesday, March 13th at the Camp Perry Conference Center in Port Clinton.  For more information on the OCIC, visit or find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.