Around the Miami Valley
10:42 am
Mon May 10, 2010

Wilmington's Homegrown Hope Part 1

The state of Ohio is awarding one million dollars in stimulus money to Wilmington to invest in energy efficient projects. The money comes as the town is at crossroads. It celebrates its bicentennial this year, but it's also reeling from devastating job loss in the wake of DHL leaving the town. Emily McCord first started reporting on Wilmington's transformation more than a year ago, and this week she brings us her series "Wilmington Homegrown Hope"

"Things Are Happening in Wilmington, Ohio"

The General Denver sits in the heart of Wilmington, Ohio. The Tudor style hotel, with a restaurant and bar, has seen a lot of history. It was built in 1928, and these days, it's the place to be on Wednesday nights. About a year ago, some local musicians wanted a hometown venue. Now, owner of the General Denver, Molly Dullea is thrilled.

"There isn't any comparison. It's black and white. It's really different. It's great!" says Dullea.

She says there's a liveliness that wasn't there before. The room is filled and beer is flowing. And, she says, the crowd is cross generational.

"Taylor Stuckert and Mark Rembert, wow. What a boom for our area," says Dullea.
She's talking about the two young men who came back to Wilmington, and are working to move its economy forward by going green.

Tonight, they're here at the General Denver, meeting with friends, family, and coworkers. Everyone seems to know each other in this small town.

"We're going to work tonight, we're going to work tomorrow, and on Saturday. The lines blur together, but that's the excitement of working in your hometown. It doesn't feel overbearing"

Mark Rembert and his friend, Taylor Stuckert created Energize Clinton County, a not for profit meant to deal with job losses from DHL. Mark and Taylor went to high school together in Wilmington. But they both left for college; spent some time on the east coast, and Taylor even went to Boliva with the Peace Corps. But now they find themselves back in Wilmington. It's not something Taylor saw for himself when he envisioned his future.

"Before I joined the Peace Corps, I was wanting to leave New York. And I was looking for places to move, I remember looking at Portland, Oregon, Vancouver, and Portland Maine. I remember thinking why did I want to move to these places?" says Stuckert.

"We're Still Innovative"

When DHL left Wilmington, Taylor says he and Mark saw it as their chance to do something for their community that they couldn't do elsewhere.

"In Wilmington, you have very real opportunity, and in most small towns, to really fit in and make an impact in where you live," says Stuckert.

Since I last checked in with Mark and Taylor, they've been busy. Their group is helping Wilmington business through a buy local campaign; they've engaged green companies with interest in the town, and Mark says they helped bring in stimulus money for green projects.

"Even during the most difficult period during our community's history, we're still proactive, innovative, and looking for opportunities, and I think and hope that's what companies will be looking for," says Rembert.

Director of Clinton County Regional Planning, Chris Schock, says this is unusual.

"It's unique to have young people come back and say 'I want to fix things'" says Schock, "When the economy is down, you have to be creative. We're not waiting for the Germans to show up with jobs, we have to be able to do it ourselves."

Energize Clinton County isn't just a couple of young guys with great ideas. The community has largely embraced their efforts-the mayor's office, the county, and local businesses have all been on board. Last summer, they all came together to form, what they're calling the country's first Green Enterprise Zone.

Over dinner at the General Denver, Mark and Taylor and Chris Schock are trading jokes. There are others at the table, too. One of them is Eric Guindon. He's one of the people Mark and Taylor have lured back to Wilmington.

"Mark and I went to preschool together. We went to Quaker preschool together," says Guindon.

Eric is back as an AmeriCorps volunteer who is creating a program to use community gardens to feed people who are in need. Tomorrow, we'll get our hands dirty with Eric and the Grow Food Grow Hope program.