WILMINGTON — “I’d say we have rebounded very well in this community,” said current Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth looking back over the 10 years since DHL left.
When DHL pulled out of Wilmington, Stanforth was a private citizen who owned his own remodeling business — John Stanforth Construction — where he had 72 employees. After DHL pulled out, he ended up with seven.
“There wasn’t any work. Those were hard conversations. You know, when you have someone that has been with you for years and they’ve done everything you’ve asked them to. When you sit across the table from them and tell them ‘I’m sorry, you don’t work here anymore,’” said Stanforth.
He said others in construction and remodeling work suffered a lot since many of their workers weren’t employees, but sub-contractors.
He remembers how devastating it was for the whole community.
He also hated seeing how it was covered in the news — that the country was looking at the city as “poor little old Wilmington.”
“I think about my dad living through the Great Depression. My goodness! There’s no comparison,” he said.
Stanforth gives credit to many individuals in the community for helping revive the community.
Among those include Dan Evers and the members of the Clinton County Port Authority for keeping the Wilmington Air Park going with around 1,300 people currently employed working at the multiple complexes.
“I would be surprised if people realized how many people actually work at the air park today,” he said.
Stanforth credited Joe Hete — who Stanforth said could’ve retired and live a comfy life in Florida but decided to stay and open another business — and then-Mayor David Raizk, who he said helped keep the city afloat.
But the people he gives a lot of credit to are the citizens and locals who helped the city flourish and weathered the storm. Especially those who brought business to the city.
“We hunkered down and we got through it,” he said.
He had recently attended a Mayor’s Association meeting up in Akron and heard other mayors talk about the trouble they were having with their boarded-up properties in their downtown areas.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘That’s not an issue for us. We don’t have boarded-up properties in the downtown.’ We’ve got some empty buildings but they tend to turn over,” he said.
As for the future of Wilmington, he believes that the slow and steady path the city is on now is the best path.
“I was just reading about Nashville and how they’re growing so fast they can’t keep up with the infrastructure of it. The slow, sustained growth is what I hope we have,” he said.
When asked what he would tell himself or the community 10 years ago if he could, he said he’d tell them to just do your best and you’ll get through it.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574