Wilke becomes executive director of the Holmes County EDC

  • 6-5-2012

For the past three years, Tom Wilke has made it his goal to bring business and tourism to the county seat as executive director of Historic Downtown Millersburg (HDM). Now, as executive director of the Holmes County Economic Development Council (EDC), Wilke will use his expertise to encourage positive economic growth in the entire county.

Before settling in Holmes County, Wilke, formerly of Stow, spent 33 years in the fast food industry, many of them as senior region coach for Taco Bell, overseeing 550 restaurants in the northeastern part of the United States, and also as partner and vice president of operations of the largest Taco Bell franchise in the country, with 170 restaurants in the southeast region of the U.S. In 2008, Wilke left that career in favor of the slower pace of Ohio’s Amish Country and, in 2009, became executive director of HDM, a nationally accredited non-profit organization working to increase economic development and sustainability of the downtown district through preservation of historic buildings and promotion of public events and cultural tourism. HDM also offers business advice to the district’s merchants and works to secure grants, such as the 2011 Tier Two Downtown Building & Streetscape Revitalization grant, which will provide $289,000 of state funds for building and infrastructure improvements in the district over the next three years. The village of Millersburg is the smallest community to ever receive the grant, which has traditionally gone to much larger municipalities, like Akron and Canton.

In April, Shawn Starlin, EDC’s former executive director, who was instrumental in securing the Tier Two grant, took a position with Wayne County’s EDC in order to be closer to his home, wife, and two young children. Wilke’s former role has been filled by HDM’s Tara McCulloch, who previously served as the organization’s program and events coordinator.

Wilke said his primary objective with the EDC is to attract new businesses to Holmes County as well as encourage existing businesses to expand.

“We’re all about job growth, creation and retention,” Wilke said. “We work to do that, in part, by providing access to state programs and offering facilitation of the application process for those programs.”

One example, Wilke said, is the Job Creation Tax Credit program, which allows for a reduction in payroll taxes for new positions for up to 10 years following the completion of an approved expansion or relocation project within the county. Another is the Enterprise Zone Program, which allows for property tax abatement on the value of new construction and expansions by up to 50 percent over 10 years after the approved project is completed.

Programs like these, Wilke said, benefit both the county and the businesses by encouraging businesses to locate, build or expand here to create new jobs, and, at the same time, defraying some of the company’s expansion or new construction costs. Wilke said such programs are already working in Holmes County and gave examples of two local businesses currently participating. Combined, the companies will create 40 new full-time jobs over the next several years.

The EDC, an organization run by a board of nearly two dozen local business people, was first established about five years ago, when Dan Jackson, director of the Holmes County Department of Job and Family Services, pursued the initial grant to fund the hiring of an executive director in order to create more local employment.

Wilke will continue his role as project coordinator for the relocation of the Holmes County fairgrounds, which will move from its current location to the Shreiner farm, a piece of property less than a mile west of state Route 39 in Millersburg.

The hope is to host Holmes County’s fair at the new grounds in 2014 and utilize the exposition center by 2015 for garden shows, sportsmen’s shows and music events, as well as the hardwood furniture guild which takes place each February.

Wilke is excited about the potential growth his new position can bring to Holmes County and eager to serve the area’s businesses and residents, something he hopes to do for years to come.

For more information about the Holmes County Economic Development Council, call 330-763-2954 or visit http://www.holmescountydevelopment.org.


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