Like a puppy with a slipper

Few things in life demonstrate sheer joy, excitement and energy like a puppy playing with a slipper.

At one time in your life you’ve seen it. A puppy will toss a slipper into the air and then be startled that it actually lands in the same room. Puppies love this. They will chase it. They will grab it. They roll. They chew. They stalk the slipper wherever it goes.

When they are finished with their efforts, the slipper is a gnawed, torn, slobbery, slimy mess. It bears little resemblance to the comfortable, cushioned house-slipper the puppy started with. The slipper is now completely changed and the puppy is delighted with his work. It is also exhausted from its effort.

When the puppy knows there is nothing else that can possibly be done to the slipper, it will roll over, stick its little puppy-paws in the air and rest. That is usually when you return home and find the puppy and what is left of your favorite slipper sprawled around the house.

I used that analogy last fall during a presentation at the Ohio Economic Development Association’s conference in Columbus. Mark Rembert, Taylor Stuckert and I were asked to present information on the program, “Wilmington Succeeds.” This program was developed by a focused, hardworking team of people who wanted to make college accessible and more affordable for Wilmington High School graduates. It works.

The team, consisting of leadership from Wilmington College, Southern State Community College, Clinton County Regional Planning Commission, the City of Wilmington and the community started development of the program with nothing more than the shell of an idea — a concept. We committed to meet regularly and in those meetings the team batted around numerous thoughts and ideas.

We thoroughly worked over every thought and idea that anyone brought up. We gnawed on the ideas, chewed on them and rolled them around until an excellent program, “Wilmington Succeeds,” was ready for presentation. It is now a reality and a benefit to our youth who might have thought that a college degree was beyond their grasp. We knew “Wilmington Succeeds” was a good idea. Now, it’s a reality.

This past Saturday, I had the honor of addressing a group from Leadership Ohio. They had traveled from many cities throughout Ohio to spend a few days in Wilmington. Our local Clinton County Leadership Institute and our CCLI director, Scott Holmer, hosted the group.

They were here because of our history of dealing with the DHL closure and our efforts to recover from that tremendous loss of jobs — an economic disaster that occurred only seven years ago. Wilmington now has a well-deserved reputation for resilience and success in dealing with economic disaster. That’s why they visited us: to see and hear from us how we have managed to survive.

They heard from Scott Holmer. They spent time with David Hockaday learning about the economic development efforts of the Clinton County Port Authority. Mark Rembert, executive director of the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce, talked about the success of our Chamber of Commerce and the earlier development of Energize Clinton County. Mark explained why he and Taylor Stuckert left the Peace Corps and came home to Wilmington to develop ECC during the worst part of our economic trials. They came home to help, to make a difference — and they certainly have.

During my time with the Leadership Ohio group, I explained that our recovery has been a group effort. It started immediately after the DHL announcement was made. Former Mayor David Raizk, with support from Columbus, formed a task force to address the situation. Their work, and the negotiations led by John Limbert, resulted in the Wilmington Air Park being donated back to the community. I spoke of the successes our local industries have experienced over the past five years. We have added new businesses and many of our long-time industries have expanded and added new employment.

Our success is not due to any one person or just one organization. Our recovery is due to the committed efforts of many energetic people and many organizations working together, taking ideas and chewing on them, tossing them around, and never giving up. We are well on our way to recovery. Our future is bright.

Like a puppy left alone with a slipper, we never gave up.

Randy Riley is mayor of Wilmington.