Berea Council Unanimous On Budget for First Time Since 2011

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The Berea City Council approved the 2017-2018 budget in an 8-0 vote on Tuesday.

The budget process differed from past years in that it included a joint meeting with the members of the City of Berea Audit and Finance Committee and the Berea Tourism and Convention Commission. The result was that tourism commissioners fielded suggestions from city officials and ultimately committed funds to projects such as shared use trails and bike paths, as well as pledging more funds for community events.

In his remarks after the vote, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly commended the council for their efforts, noting the budget affirms the city’s commitment to tourism as a tool for long-term economic development. Connelly also noted the budget confirms the importance of the 3% restaurant tax, since it allows tourism programs to get needed funding to draw visitors into the city without having to dip into the city’s general fund.

Mayor Connelly also said the council was prudent in its effort to work with tourism while staying within the guidelines of state law regarding how restaurant tax money can be used.

Some highlights of the city’s 2017-2018 spending plan:

  • Berea city employees will receive a raise of up to 2%.
  • Funds for hiring three new firefighters and one additional police officer are budgeted.
  • Occupational License Fees are conservatively projected to reach $5.3 million.
  • Including all government funds, the city is projected to collect $17.3 million in revenue.
  • Berea’s “rainy-day” fund increased $500,000 to $2.7 million, setting aside money for the government to function in the event of a financial emergency.
  • $200,000 is included for Duerson field and installation of bleachers at Berea City Park.
  • $250,000 is budgeted to renovate the L&N Depot for use as a restaurant space.
  • $400,000 is slated for the Tolle building for office and gallery space, as well as a meeting space for 150-175 people.
  • The Berea Tourism and Convention Commission budget includes $75,000 for shared use paths. The move is part of a strategy to capitalize on the growing popularity of bike/walking trails and outdoor tourism.
  • Tourism budgeted $30,000 for town beautification (Christmas, Artisan Village plantings and other projects); $10,000 is set aside for music on the porch; $5,000 for the Spoonbread Festival; $28,000 to sponsor community events to draw tourists (like the Spoonbread Festival); $12,000 is set aside to study the impact/strategies relating to recreational tourism.
  • The ending fund balance in this budget is projected to be $609,908 higher than in last year’s.
  • $545,000 is allocated for shared use paths, and the finishing of the Indian Fort Trail. by connecting properties along Short Line Pike.

 

Sept. 5 Still Target for Berea Municipal Building Completion

citybdg2It’s now just a matter of weeks until the Berea Municipal Police and Fire Safety Building is finished, according to city officials. September 5 is still the target date for completion of the facility, which will be home to administrative offices and Berea’s first responders.

citybdg4After completing the brick fronting, workmen were seen this week placing stone on the front façade.

citybdg3Drywall is being installed at a rapid pace, and the offices inside the structure are beginning to take shape. Officials estimate more than half of the drywall has already been completed.

citybdg7A lot of work went into the finishing of the fire station this week, both inside the three-truck bay and the exterior brick work. In addition, sprinklers are being installed in the building.

 

citybdg1Much of the roof has been installed so far, and electrical wiring is being completed on the second floor. Crews have also begun installing windows in the building.

citybdg5The completion of the new fire station is expected to help lower insurance rates for residents and local business owners, and needed upgrades in training facilities and living quarters for the Berea Fire Department will put the city in a better position to recruit and retain firefighters.

The Berea Police Department will benefit from the building’s enhanced security, since the design will allow for tighter control of suspects, as well as greater security and privacy for citizens needing to make a complaint or consult with a police officer. Additionally, the improvements could help the city to hire more female first responders, since upgrades in living quarters and locker rooms in the facility will better accommodate women.

Craft Workshops Bring Business to Berea

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Berea’s Festival of Learnshops is around the corner, and if past years are any indication, the workshops promise to bring an infusion of outside dollars into the local economy.

The following is a brief review of post-workshop surveys taken from five different Berea craft workshop events, including Twelve Days of Christmas (TDC), Make It, Take It, Give It (MTG) Festival of Learnshops (FOL), and Hands On Workshops (HOW) including February and April classes.

In an attempt to gauge the economic impact of the craft workshops, four questions were selected from the surveys, including whether participants stayed in local lodging, ate at restaurants, shopped locally, and approximately how much money they spent. Tourism Program Coordinator Nancy Conley supplied the data from the surveys.

Findings:

  1. Workshops that yielded the most economic benefit for local businesses were well publicized in advance (MTG, FOL). First-time events (such as February/April workshops) that had limited advance advertising still contributed to the local economy, but on a smaller scale.
  2. Restaurants and shops seem to benefit from the workshops regardless of season.
  3. The number of participants who stay in local lodging has climbed virtually every year in every workshop category since the classes began. However, on average, nearly two thirds of participants consistently choose not to stay overnight in Berea, especially since some winter workshops average only a couple of hours in length.

Festival of Learnshops

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The percentage of FOL participants who do not stay overnight has remained relatively constant at 64 percent. However, as the program grows, the overall number of participants staying in Berea has increased every year, with the exception of a slight dip in 2016.

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On average, 83 percent of responding FOL participants reported dining in Berea restaurants. The average number of respondants who do not eat in local restaurants has stayed relatively constant at 17 percent, even as the overall number of diners increased. The number of dining choices in Berea will have increased when the Learnshops begin in summer of 2017 (Clementine’s Bake Shop, The Native Bagel, Wings Etc., Goldstar Chili and Roadside Diner).

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FOL participants who reported shopping in Berea has remained constant, with an average of 68 percent doing business with local retailers. One third of participants consistently report not buying in Berea shops or galleries.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas/Make It, Take It, Give It

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Because TDC and MTG sessions typically average two hours in length, it follows that demand for lodging is low, especially during the busy holiday season. Still, the number of participants who stayed overnight in Berea continues to edge up even during the winter workshops, reaching a high point in 2016.

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As in the case of FOL, surveys suggest restaurants benefit from the holiday workshops even though the number of hours participants are in town is less than during the summer sessions. With the exception of 2015, the number of restaurant patrons from the holiday workshops steadily climbed.

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On average, 66 percent of winter workshop participants reported shopping in Berea.

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The post-survey questionnaire has evolved since the inception of the program. The question regarding the amount spent in Berea (excluding workshop fees) began appearing on the surveys following the December 2014 workshops. Not surprisingly, the summer workshops yield the most economic benefit for the local economy, since participants are in town for a longer period of time.

Direct Economic Impact on Local Artists

Complete information regarding compensation for local artisans for past workshops is not yet available, but some recent figures suggest a significant benefit to Berea artisans.

FOL 2016 income passed onto all instructors: $81,551.

FOL 2016 income passed exclusively to Berea instructors: $44,974.

MTG 2016 income passed exclusively to Berea instructors: $19,436.

HOW February 2017 income to Berea instructors: $7,276.

Post-workshop surveys consistently reveal that the sessions draw the most visitors from beyond Berea, including Louisville, Lexington, Richmond, and from out-of-state, infusing money into the local economy.

* Participation levels in the post-workshops surveys fluctuates. As such, the data reported above reflects only the spending of those who elected to participate in the surveys.

Historic Cabin to Become Gallery, Retail Space for Berea Artisans

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The Shifflet Cabin in Berea’s Artisan Village has served as a backdrop for local concerts like Pickin’ On the Porch. Next month, the historic structure will soon play an expanded role near the city’s welcome center when it opens as a storefront for two Berea artisans.

Woodturner Tim Wade and broom artisan Justin Dean Burton will set up shop in the cabin, establishing two new craft businesses in the arts/retail district more commonly known as Old Town. Grand opening is slated for June 22. Both Wade and Burton are currently participating Arts Accelerator, program sponsored by the City of Berea and the Berea Tourist and Convention Commission.

Discussions to use the cabin began four months ago when Wade approached the city about opening a storefront for his craft business. At the time, the Shifflet Cabin was being used as storage space, and Wade approached city officials about clearing it out and converting it to a gallery/retail space.

Wade suggested the city could expand the use of the cabin in a way that would open another storefront but also give visitors the chance to see the inside of the building. “A lot of people have never seen a real historic cabin of this type except maybe on TV. This is a great opportunity, and if we can sell some stuff, that’s okay, too,” Wade said.

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For the cabin to work as a retail space, some minor upgrades will have to be made, including improving the electrical system, but Wade emphasized nothing will be done that will negatively impact that historical or financial value of the cabin. “I gave my word that when we do vacate it, we’ll leave it better than we found it,” said Wade.

Both Wade and Burton will finish their commitments to the Arts Accelerator program in the fall. In the meantime, the two artists will divide their time between the 123 Gallery on North Broadway and their new retail space in Shifflet Cabin.

Though opening a new storefront is a challenge, Burton believes he and Wade are ready for the challenge. “I’m excited. This building has been sitting here for years, and it’s a good opportunity not only to establish a storefront in Old Town but to share this building with more people,” Burton said.

“We’re going to set it up so it has a very nostalgic atmosphere,” Wade agreed.

The porch of the cabin is a familiar venue for Pickin’ On the Porch, and it will also be a stage for the Levitt AMP Berea Concert Series beginning in July, but Wade and Burton emphasize their new arrangement will not interfere with established events. “Everything everyone is doing here will still happen. Hopefully, we can make it better,” Wade said.

According to a plaque on the site of the structure, the Shifflet Cabin was built around 1813 by Thomas Shifflet in Drowning Creek. It was used as both a home and a country school house. Around 1980, a descendent of Thomas Shifflet, Raymond Layne, moved the structure to Adams Street, where it remained until it was donated to the City of Berea in 2003. It was moved to its current location in front of the Welcome Center.

 

 

American Legion Remembers Fallen Heroes in Berea Memorial Day Ceremony

memdayflags.jpgThe Cleveland Frost American Legion Post 50 hosted a Memorial Day observance in Berea Sunday, paying tribute to the men and women who died in service in their country. The event took place at Berea Cemetery where a unit from the Madison Southern High School Air Force ROTC presented the colors, while the Madison County Veterans Association Honor Guard provided a 21-gun salute and a performance of “Taps.”

Berea Mayor Steve Connelly was the keynote speaker, calling for national unity in remembrance of the nation’s fallen heroes and its common heritage:

“We gather today to honor the Americans who gave their lives so that future generations might live in freedom. All across our country, Americans bow their heads in thanks to our fallen heroes. With flags at half mast, with flowers placed on graves, with colorful parades, with quiet prayers, we take this time to remember their sacrifices and renew our commitment to their ideals.

In this quiet cemetery, the rows of headstones give silent testimony to their stories of sacrifice and service that make up our nation’s history. They mark the final resting place of a spirit that has guided our country for more than 200 years, and illustrates a shared devotion to defend our nation, protect our freedom, and keep America strong and proud.

We know our country is strong and great today, in part, because of them. We know that to honor their extraordinary sacrifice, we must all resolve to keep the United States the world’s leading force for peace and security, for prosperity and freedom. And we know that now, more than ever, this burden of service weighs most heavily on our men and women in uniform and their families.

On this Memorial Day, let us draw inspiration from the spirit that surrounds us here, to provide the support that our military and their families need and deserve. And let us remember as we look out over these markers that the origin of Memorial Day, the practice of honoring America’s fallen heroes, began near the end of the Civil War, the deadliest and most divisive conflict that our nation has ever known. Thinking about that deep and bloody national division should help us to remember what joins us together as Americans.

We are descendants of a common creed. – one nation under God. We are all partners with a common purpose: to keep our nation free and strong; a force for peace and progress; a place where people who work hard and take responsibility have the chance to make the most of their own lives, build good, strong families, and live out their dreams in dignity and peace. With these goals continually in mind, and as we seek to uphold our obligations as One America, may God bless our departed heroes and the country for which they made the ultimate sacrifice to serve.

And may God bless you all.”

 

 

A Snapshot of How Craft Workshops Benefit Berea Businesses

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A look at post-program surveys reveals that Berea’s craft workshops have benefitted local motels, restaurants and shops every year since the classes began. For example, a comparison of the summer Festival of Learnshops (FOL) 2012 versus 2016 reveals:

FOL participants who stayed overnight in Berea in 2012: 37

FOL participants who stayed overnight in Berea in 2016: 121

Learnshop participants who ate in Berea restaurants in 2012: 114

Learnshop participants who ate in Berea restaurants in 2016: 307

FOL students who shopped in Berea in 2012: 92

FOL students who shopped in Berea in 2016: 258

Direct income to artists for Berea’s Festival of Learnshops 2016 three-week series: $81,551

 

New Jobs Coming to Novelis as Berea Industries Continue Expansion

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Mayor Steve Connelly recently commemorated the expansion of the Hitachi automotive plant in Berea with Hitachi President Hideaki Seki as General Manager Joe Sairenji looked on.

Business is good in Berea as two local manufacturers have either expanded or are in the process of expanding their industrial facilities. In recent months, Novelis and Hitachi have worked on increasing the size of their operations and at least one of the companies is investing in new equipment.

Most recently, aluminum recycling giant Novelis announced plans for a $2.3 million enhancement of their Mayde Road facility. The company produces aluminum ingots out of recycled cans and other material, and it is investing to speed up processing time. Novelis Human Resources Director Monica Johnson noted that by adding a new truck scale and reconfiguring entrances from Mayde Road, the company can increase intake of recyclables.

“We have the [production] capacity, but in order to take advantage of that capacity, we have to increase our flow of goods,” Johnson said. “Right now, where the truckers are entering our property, there’s a bottleneck, so we’re going to expand so we can process more trucks in any given day by having an additional scale.” The change will allow the plant to increase production by 50 million pounds annually, officials said. Novelis will also be investing in additional fork trucks to unload material, and the company will be creating eight new jobs.

Berea City Councilman Jim Davis, who chairs the council’s Economic Development Committee, said the expansion at Novelis demonstrates the company’s continuing contribution to Berea’s economy. “By expanding their local facility, Novelis has shown its commitment to Berea and its local workforce. As a good corporate citizen, we are grateful for their continued confidence in the community,” Davis said.

City of Berea Business Development Director Danny Isaacs said the expansion at Novelis appears to be part of a very encouraging trend. “This fits into what’s going on in Berea overall,” Isaacs said. “Novelis is investing in their facility to increase their production capacity along with Hitachi, and these sorts of investments are the reasons Berea was ranked 32nd globally by Site Selection magazine for industrial growth. I’m appreciative that their organization continues to invest in Berea and its people, and we look forward to working with them on other future projects.”

Isaacs noted Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas was another local manufacturer that has made significant investments in its Berea operations. Hitachi expanded production capacity, built a corridor to connect the north and south plants, and added in-house dining options to accommodate its workforce. Human Resources Director Brian Fouch noted the improvements reflect the company’s commitment to both increased efficiency and the region. “This expansion is part of our overall strategy to become more efficient through improved process flow and to provide additional space for our current and future business growth.  In addition, this expansion demonstrates our commitment to Berea and surrounding community,” Fouch said.

According to one recent report, Hitachi added approximately 200 jobs to its operation last year. Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW), meanwhile, reported they are gearing up to serve new clients, according company representative Cameron Sontag.

Berea Mayor Steve Connelly stated the reports of expansion portend good things for the city’s economic fortunes, especially at a time when competition for industrial employers is fierce. “To paraphrase an old aphorism, their investment is the sincerest form of flattery. At a time when every community is competing vigorously to attract     manufacturing plants, Berea is fortunate to have existing companies willing to invest their own money in buildings and operations in ways to increase production and improve efficiency. These strategies will improve the companies’ bottom lines and will likely lead to more employment. It is clear that Berea is good for business, and business is good in Berea,” Connelly said.