GSL column: Trust in partnerships helps usher in change for the good

This column first appeared in the April 2021 issue of Great Seal Living.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

When we look at the timeline of the past decade and a half in Chillicothe, it’s evident that teamwork created the culture and environment in which business succeeds in Ross County.

The partnerships we enjoy here truly make it easier to get things done.

Inside the Chamber of Commerce office at 45 E. Main St., we have the Chamber staff and offices for both Greater Chillicothe and Ross County Development – the economic development arm of the county – and Downtown Chillicothe – which focuses on the improvement of the heart of the community.

The Chamber has a seat on both boards and Tiffany Baldwin, program manager for Downtown Chillicothe, sits on the Chamber board.

But the real benefit of being in the same building is that the shared workspace leads to quite a few discussions that help increase communication within the entities and the investors we all serve.

It’s not uncommon for Tiffany to discuss an opportunity with both Tammy Eallonardo, economic development director, and me, and, before we know it, we’re working together to find a solution. Each alliance we have makes the community stronger.

Here’s a great example: Our current conversation focuses on how to increase early brain development and early childhood education, or Kindergarten readiness, for our community’s children. The Chamber’s interest centers around creating a lifelong learning culture in Ross County because we believe a strong learning culture is the first phase of workforce development. Put in another way, if we create an unquenchable thirst for knowledge in today’s children, we stand a great chance of having them be leaders and employees who do the same as adults.

It’s a conversation the Chamber engaged in after Quint Studer’s visit here a year ago, and Mayor Luke Feeney made a centerpiece of his 2020 State of the City address.

Despite the pandemic, Mayor Feeney’s conversation continues and now includes several different sectors of the community. Adena Health System, as we hope to engage their pediatricians. The Chillicothe City Schools, where we engage their administrators and teachers, have a vested interest in getting Kindergarten-ready students, and the area’s preschools, where we see tremendous opportunity.

Each of these organizations could retreat into themselves or independently want to lead the charge. Instead, the dialogue centers around how each can leverage their strengths and strengthen this area. We’ll rely on the medical expertise at Adena, combined with the academic knowledge of the city schools (along with Ohio University Chillicothe) and the business partnerships we can provide – all under the city’s ability to unite and get everyone pulling in the same direction.

We couldn’t do anything of this work, however, without trust. We’ve spent the past 12 to 15 years building relationships between these entities. We’ve made connections, gotten to know each other, and built trust. We’re at a place where we allow for new ideas to develop and think outside the box and accept feedback about our efforts.

Success helps. We certainly couldn’t achieve much if the Carlisle Building were still a burned-out shell or most of the storefronts were vacant. Carlisle’s renovation helped spur the arrival of Paper City Coffee, R Kitchen on Paint, rost Coffee, and The Pour House at Machinery Hall, which helped add Hometown Hibachi, Fifty West Brewing Co., Old Capital Brewing, and the Fort Collective.

We’ve celebrated the wins along the way while knowing that the task isn’t complete. The smaller victories create the more significant success of a vibrant downtown.  But it didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long process, which developing a culture of early childhood learning will also be.

I’ve not even touched on how our city parks can be centers of learning, with enhanced playgrounds serving to stimulate a child’s cognitive development. How can we leverage the Leader In Me concepts for children at an even younger age to be a responsible community helping their young people become good leaders seriously.

But we’ll need to work together to get it all done. Our partnerships – when adequately focused on a strategic objective – will lead the way.

I started this column with a quote from Henry Ford, and I’ll end it similarly. It’s another quote from the patriarch of the famed U.S. auto company. “If everyone is moving forward together,” he said, “then success takes care of itself.”

Mike Throne is the president and CEO of the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at