GREENVILLE — Darke County Economic Development and the Darke County Community Improvement Corporation hosted the annual investors meeting and economic development forum Friday morning, naming JAFE Decorating as the Darke County Business of the Year.
JAFE Decorating has been in business since 1978, founded by Lloyd Williams and now owned and operated by Randy O’Dell.
“JAFE has more than doubled the number of employees in the last six years with a current employee count of 73,” said Darke County CIC Dave Keiser in his introduction. “JAFE added 14,000 square feet along with new equipment in December of 2014. JAFE is coming off back-to-back record years and is expecting to continue that trend in 2016.”
JAFE recently partnered with Sylvania to produce U.S.-made green lightbulbs for Walmart to honor United State veterans for the Greenlight a Vet program. Walmart launched the program in 2015 and immediately came under some criticism selling green lightbulbs made in China to honor U.S. veterans.
Keiser noted that JAFE has been a big supporter of the Darke County emerging workforce effort and hosted tours as well as hiring and mentoring high school interns. JAFE recently was honored at the 20 Under 20 awards for its collaborative efforts for career education.
O’Dell called the award “truly, truly an honor” in light of the many great companies in Darke County. He cited his father – a small business owner himself – as well as JAFE founder Lloyd Williams, as his greatest mentors and inspirations in business, referring to them as “my two dads.”
“I remember growing up, Dad always said, ‘If you work hard, good things will happen,” O’Dell said, adding that Rep. James Buchy’s father had told his own son the same thing. “More than working hard, my dad always talked about quality. He always talked about buying quality, because you get what you pay for.”
O’Dell said what they are most proud of at JAFE are working hard every day and producing quality products for the marketplace. He praised the employees’ dedication, hard work and commitment to quality. He also praised his wife, Lisa, for her dedicatin and suport over the past 34 years.
“Lloyd had a dream,” O’Dell went on to say about his “other” father. “His faith, and really more than that, his motto that failure is not an option would allow this garage story business to evolve into what it is today. Lloyd was a mentor, a father-like figure, but most importantly he was a great person to his employees.”
O’Dell said in his 12 years of getting to work with Williams, his mentor taught him not only about business, but also about life.
JAFE Decorating also was recognized at the breakfast by Sen. Keith Faber, Sen. Bill Beagle, Rep. Jim Buchy, Rep. Steve Huffman and Gov. John Kasich’s office.
During the investors’ meeting, the newest representatives to the CIC board were elected. Ted Holsapple and Kent James were chosen as the new investor representatives.
Darke County Economic Development’s Career Pathway Coordinator Lisa Wendel updated the meeting attendees on the workforce development initiatives underway by the office. She said now that the core plan is in effect, her job was to “stay the course” to ensure the effectiveness of the programs, stating that the workforce development program could not be successful if the landscape was continually changing.
Wendel listed her offices annual activities, which include National Manufacturing Day, Junior Job Shadow Week, presentations to all the county sophomores, Senior Straight to Work Job Fair, 20 Under 20 banquet and summer educator tours.
Graduating Bradford High School senior Rhyan Turner spoke about his experience as a high school intern with Midmark Corporation and how it has helped him recognize the path he wants to take for his career, which has transitioned from mechanical engineering to software engineering.
Updates were also given by Gwen Eberly from Montgomery County Economic Development on the Business First! regional initiative; by Jared Ebbing, Mercer County Economic Development director, on the Hometown Opportunity website; and Julie Sullivan, of the Dayton Development Calition, on the economic development partnerships in the region.