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Columbia Gas helps to fund fire suppression

Enables business to better expand, hire workers

By CHRISTINE L. PRATT Staff Writer Published: May 20, 2017 5:00 AM
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KILLBUCK -- What started as a small one-room, one-man operation making miniature wooden Amish buggies has grown into a large furniture-making business that employs nearly 200.

And, Daniel's Amish Collection is not done growing. A grant from Columbia Gas of Ohio is helping Daniel's Amish Collection construct a 15,000-square-foot addition to its Killbuck factory to accommodate the growing demand for its furniture, while employing an additional 25 workers.

"Columbia cares about jobs and growth that will strengthen communities around Ohio," said Vince Parisi, Columbia's vice president of finance and regulatory affairs. "We're delighted to help Daniel's Amish create jobs and continue its success story in Holmes County."

Parisi was part of a small group that recently toured the facility, including the new addition in which raw lumber is stored.

As the business has grown in size, so has it increased its output. Seven years ago, working with only eight employees, the business was shipping out $100,000 in product a month. "Now, if we're not over that in a day, we're behind," said President Chris Karmen.

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The $50,000 grant supplemented the cost of a $300,000 fire suppression system necessary for the expansion, Karmen said, noting that by offsetting the unexpected cost, the company could move forward with plans to add to its workforce.

"We are grateful for the key role Columbia Gas played in helping us add to our workforce. Our talented and hard-working employees are a big part of our company's success."

"We put a $1 million addition on the facility and then we found out the water supply didn't have enough pressure," said Karmen, happy to reinvest the money saved through receipt of the grant on equipment and a growing workforce.

The business is a major supplier of bedroom furniture to large retailers, including FrontRoom Furnishings, Levin's, Kittle's Furniture and Furniture Affair, said Karmen, who said the local company has grown by taking its product out of the realm of small "mom and pop" stores into the mainstream.

Along the way, the business cut expansion costs by buying used equipment "for pennies on the dollar" from other companies going out of business, said Karmen, adding, the opportunity for affordable buying had been made even greater thanks to the internet, over which "you can scour the country."

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"We appreciate it. Because of Columbia Gas, we can actually do things to bring money in. It was a real blessing," said Karmen.

The Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, which serves all 25 of Ohio's Appalachian-designated counties with economic and workforce development programs and initiatives, attracted support for the project from Columbia Gas and JobsOhio.

The partnership is "fantastic," according to Ed Looman, APEG project manager, who helped to facilitate the grant. "It's an opportunity companies have that enables them to grow and get involved.

"All we do is about job creation and assistance," Looman said, adding, "It's especially good to be able to get dollars for an expansion project in this area. It's something we're able to do to bring growth to the area to get money back into our counties."

Mark Leininger, executive director of the Holmes County Economic Development Council, was similarly impressed with the collaborative effort, especially considering it was a similar obstacle that forced Seaman Corp. to abandon its roots in Holmes County.

Seaman CEO Richard Seaman discussed the 1987 crisis at the November 2015 annual meeting of the Holmes County EDC, and Leininger said he finds it "pretty cool" to see the changes that have emerged in the years since come to positive fruition.

"The model worked the way it should," he said.

Columbia's Jobs Growth Fund has provided $1.5 million to support economic development throughout the company's service area. The program provides financial assistance to new and existing companies that create jobs.

Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676.

or cpratt@the-daily-record.com.


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