Columbiana Chamber marks spring showcase

COLUMBIANA- A family-owned cast iron foundry will change ownership in the next year or two, a factory outlet is re-opening after renovating, and a subsidiary of Aultman Hospital is addressing rumors it is competing in the area with the Salem Regional Medical Center.

These are just some of the things announced at the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce Spring Business Showcase last week. The annual event, held at Col-Pump on East Railroad Street, drew a crowd of business owners and residents eager to learn what lies in store for the business landscape, and the future looks promising.

Col-Pump Plant Manager Corey Bowker said he and Doug Berdine plan to purchase the foundry from co-owners Tom Bowker Sr. and Paul Rance, who have been at the helm of operations since 1986.

The plant employs 52 people and specializes in gray iron casting. Within the last year has incorporated two electric furnaces into its production system to include ductile iron.

Corey Bowker said the addition cost $1.2 million, and would have cost $3 million had all new furnaces been used.

“It’s a cleaner process, a little bit quieter,” he said, referring to the difference between the new furnaces and the water-cooled cupolas the plant has always used.

Berdine said at one point the plant employed 120 people but lost 100 workers when the economy dipped five years ago. It has since built itself back up and is continuing to look for more workers.

A transition date has not been set yet for the change in ownership Bowker said, but Tom Bowker and Rance are ready to pass the torch to him and Berdine, who have both been employed there the last several years, working their way up from lower-level jobs.

The change will not affect the plant’s daily operations, he added.

A more recent change will take place on May 17, with the re-opening of The Century Group Factory Outlet on state Route 7 in New Waterford.

The Century Group was recognized at the showcase for its efforts the last few years. It currently employs 110 local residents.

Mark Brothers accepted the President’s award from the Chamber, which was designed to recognize a business that has contributed to the betterment of Columbiana. The award was first presented at last year’s showcase.

Brothers said the company has been rejuvenating the factory outlet that has been closed in previous years, and the open house on May 17 will feature demonstrations on roof and foundation coatings, driveway fillers and sealers, roof cements, crack repair and pothole patch, joint compounds and drywall toppings.

“You’ll get a chance to see what we do down there,” he said.

Amy Schiefer of Aultworks Occupational Medicine also invited people to stop by the Columbiana Medical Center on East Park Avenue to see what they provide.

Aultworks is a subsidiary of the Aultman Hospital in Canton and began operating out of the Columbiana location in November. The facility specializes in work-related care, including physicals and drug-screens.

Schiefer said drug testing is becoming more difficult as people continue attempting to find ways to get around failing the test, like bringing in urine samples purchased from someone else, but Aultworks is on top of those measures, enforcing strict procedures for those submitted for the testing.

Chamber Executive Director April Brinker said many Columbiana businesses have already utilized Aultworks for their drug screening services.

That Aultworks is attempting to move to the area to take business away from the Salem Regional Medical Center is not true, Schiefer stressed.

She said they are in partnership with the hospital, not competing.

Other businesses featured were Dandelion Lane Farms, located on state Route 558 in Leetonia, and the Columbiana Diner located on South Main Street. The diner catered the event, and is celebrating its one-year anniversary.

The farm is owned by husband and wife team Lee and Dawn Lichtenwalner, who purchased the 11-acre property in 2007 and started out with a 500-square-foot garden. The couple are currently in the process of expanding that garden significantly based on volume and requests.

“From beans to turnips to everything in between, we are growing it,” Dawn Lichtenwalner said.

Her husband said the farm offers 17 choices of tomatoes and 18 choices of peppers – something that can’t be found at Walmart.

“We would really, really love to have small farm markets in the Columbiana County area,” she said.

The farm also offers free-range ducks and chickens for both eggs and meat, and four flavors of its own coffee roast and a variety of homemade jams.

Business owners and guests were given a tour of the Col-Pump facility to close out the event.