Geauga Growth Partnership Chairman John Epprecht called this a banner year for the organization after announcing on Tuesday that the organization added 182 members.

“This morning I realized how difficult it is to button that top button on a white shirt,” Mr. Epprecht said during the annual meeting conducted virtually. “I haven’t done that in about six months and it actually feels quite good right now,” he said referring to stay at home orders that have been in place due to the COVID-19 virus.

Mr. Epprecht presented the nonprofit’s newly-elected directors, who will serve for the next three years. The group consists of Clifford Babcock from Junction Auto Family, David Ford from the Federal Improvement Company, Lee Imhof from Troy Chemical Industries, Tony Madormo from Covia, Renee Nied from First Energy Corporation and Angela Spalsbury from Kent State University Geauga.

Mr. Epprecht said that voting on directors looked a bit different this year, as GGP members were sent emails to vote prior to the meeting instead of voting in-person.

He also said that anyone can access GGP’s annual report, which contains key results and highlights from the group’s 2020 annual business survey, on the group’s website. He called attention to the Youth Workforce Development Program, which expanded to 1,200 students from schools throughout Geauga County, setting another record.

“We also introduced a new concept in increasing human effectiveness,” Mr. Epprecht told members who were gathered on the Zoom call. “This program helped attendees develop the tools they need to break through self-imposed limitations, improve self-management and personal accountability as well as new heights of effectiveness of local businesses.”

From an economic development perspective, Mr. Epprecht pointed out that Great Lakes Cheese, of which he is the executive vice president, broke ground in 2019 in Troy Township on what he said will eventually be the largest cheese manufacturing plant in the world.

“The team completed 50 business retention expansion visits with local companies to explore their needs and remove barriers to enhance their growth,” Mr. Epprecht explained. “We gained great traction and COVID accelerated our opportunities to engage and connect with businesses.”

He also gave kudos to the staff, who he said transitioned well in response to the coronavirus pandemic in March, which created confusion and panic. He said that, in spite of this, GGP’s board approved their strategic priorities on March 16 and plans to flesh out the strategy using feedback.

GGP president Kimm Leininger, who also heads up United Way Services of Geauga County, discussed group’s three areas of focus, grow, guide and prepare. These steps outline the process her group will follow to invite new businesses opportunities while encouraging expansion of current businesses and to expand the workforce to prepare youth for their future regardless of their chosen career path.

“We dug into data, organization needs and secured feedback from our board of directors,” Mrs. Leininger said. “Many on the call have participated in strategic planning in the past, and I can assure you we were never struggling to identify bold priorities and goals for GGP.”

Christopher Mapes, president and CEO of Lincoln Electric, spoke about the impact of employee engagement.

“We’re making welding equipment, welding consumables. We need our employees to see that we’re not just making the equipment or metallurgic products, but that’s assisting others in building bridges, skyscrapers, cars. All of those things are important to our shared purpose of trying to make a better world.”

Mr. Mapes said that, by convincing employees they’re actually doing something important, they’ll work harder. Part of this commitment comes from looking at the value of employees.

“Those are these value propositions that we’re looking for,” he said. “Other areas of product automation, we’re doing things with large-scale automation, but it’s important to me to think about how we’re investing.

“We’re trying to make it very clear we’re invested in [employees’] value. As you think about higher standards strategies, it’s very important for us to think how quickly and easily our solution could add value to our application.”

Mr. Mapes showed a commercial that Lincoln had put together to show that Lincoln’s 11,000 worldwide employees cared about the work they were doing, full of testimonials and picturesque shots of the company’s facilities.

Lincoln Electric has a goal of doubling down on this commitment to increasing employees’ value, he said, by opening a new, $30 million welding technical education center to help teach customers, employees and communities how welding works and what benefits it holds.

“It’s not any one individual,” Mr. Mapes said, “it’s the collective work of our 11,000 employees giving their best to the organization each day. The leadership challenge is encouraging those employees to give their best today and continue to drive success of Lincoln Electric.”

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