Many small towns in northwest Ohio are nice places to live and raise a family, but most of them do not feature much by way of allure or appeal.
There are some small communities in this region, albeit a few, that are known for their pizzazz and panache. Towns like Elmore, Marblehead and Archbold come to mind.
The residents of Oak Harbor are looking to join that select group by giving the village something of a “facelift” in order to increase its awareness and appeal to passersby.
In recent years, the village has seen a number of businesses migrate to the area, among them The Beekeeper Inn, Medi-Quip Repairs and LDJ Nutrition.
But there's a desire to have more.
Mike Shadoan, who owns Radiant Windows, one of the town's prominent businesses, is heading up the Oak Harbor Downtown Implementation Committee, an organization that consists of local residents that have come together in the hopes of “sprucing up” the town.
The goal of the group is to “revitalize the downtown area by bolstering the existing economic base and identifying opportunities that will attract and accommodate future investment.”
“We've actually gone to towns like Waterville and Wooster,” Shadoan said, “and we visited a town up in Michigan. We've gone all over. I've even gone to some seminars on how to revitalize the downtown area. We want to make sure we don't reinvent the wheel. A lot of little towns have seen people go to these big stores like Lowe's, Wal-Mart and Menard's, and it hurt local business. We're trying to recapture some of the downtown area. That's a challenge and we want to take it seriously.”
In short, there are three phases of the plan that are being considered.
The first phase includes a “beautification” of the town, something that features 13 new benches, 30 flowerpots and 17 trash receptacles in a Victorian motif being placed along the sidewalks. Shadoan is hopeful that the town can obtain sponsorships for these items.
“Our goal is to receive sponsorships for as many of these items as possible through donations,” Shadoan said, “featuring a plaque recognition program.”
Secondly, the group wants there to be more banners, specifically noticeable banners that catch people's attention. The second phase would also include a further “beautification” of the town with decorative poles, bicycle racks and trees being added in and around the village.
“Right now, people just drive through Oak Harbor,” Shadoan said. “We want them to stop and take notice and say, 'This is a nice, quaint little town.' We want signs, banners that let people know we've arrived.”
And, thirdly, the plan will consist of some sort of development and revitalization of the riverfront area.
More than anything, Shadoan, a 1987 Oak Harbor High School graduate, believes that these ideas can help to create a news sense of pride in the town.
“We want people to be proud of Oak Harbor,” he said. “It seems like when you graduate, you can't wait to move away. I went to Chicago, California, and then I came back because it's a great place to raise a family.”
The National Bank of Ohio (NBOH) donated $2500 to the project in the hope that it will help to stimulate change within the town's landscape. NBOH, which has six locations scattered throughout Ottawa and Lucas County, has been in business for nearly 80 years.
“We want to help make Oak Harbor attractive and continue to be proud of where we work and live,” NBOH President & CEO Gary Macko said. “Putting Oak Harbor on the map as a nice, clean community benefits us all.”
In addition to NBOH, Shadoan notes that organizations like the Rotary Club, Lions Club and Radiant Windows, among others, have also been instrumental in helping to fund the project.
Shadoan also notes that this isn't some rogue operation, but rather a collaborative project between resident, businesses and the local government.
“We will do all of this with the guidance of the village,” he said. We want the administration to be involved as well. We don't want to do things that are not within the guidelines (of the village).”
Shadoan is a firm believer in the group's ideas and is confident that residents will follow suit.
“I'm optimist,” he said. “Everyone that we've tried to reach out to has been given us positive feedback. Once we get some of these items in place, I think the positive awareness will grow exponentially.”
For more information, you may contact Mike Shadoan at 419-706-6034 or Valerie Winterfield at the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce at 419-898-0479 or visit the website, www.oakharbor.oh.us.