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2023 Annual Meeting News Release

For Immediate Release: 4-14-2023

Community Improvement Corporation of Defiance County

1300 E. Second St. Suite 201

Defiance, Ohio 43512


Contact: Hannah Waterman, Workforce & Marketing Manager


(Defiance, OH) The Community Improvement Corporation of Defiance County held its Annual Meeting on Friday, April 14th. It was a well-attended event, where both CIC Board President Ben Nighswander and Executive Director Erika Willitzer reflected on 2022 to present day. They also discussed plans for the year to come and to showcase area businesses.

“Our local businesses rise to the challenge every day to provide great service to our residents and other industries,” stated Willitzer. Willitzer went onto explain the many wins for Defiance County in 2022 totaling $175 million dollars; Tessenderlo Kerley Inc., Vancrest Healthcare System, & Keller Packaging Plant to name a few. She also noted that two more major announcements will be coming in the spring or summer.

Willitzer also touched on several initiatives her office is working on for 2023. The Homegrown Program, a 501c3, was created to support the existing business base here in Defiance County. She states, “Research shows that economies grow faster and stronger when the existing business base is paid attention to. This year we are very proud to have a new grant program sponsored by Premier Bank. We just allocated our first three $500 awards to small businesses. Be on the lookout soon as we plan to profile these Defiance County businesses and showcase how those funds were used.”

The “Four Flags of Freedom” project, where the CIC plans to raise funds and install 4 giant US American Flags along US 24. They are hoping to raise $192,000 to support this project. Willitzer noted, “to show the world, when you do business in Defiance County, you are doing business with a patriotic community.”

The Second Chance Program is an idea of new ways to recruit employees that are struggling to re-enter the workforce. The goal of this program is to take lower-level offenders and provide them with resources along with a career. This program is in partnership with Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio, who has all of the resources already in place to make a program like this work.

During the Annual Meeting, Nighswander, pointed out several highlights for the organization. “It takes an army of people to move the ball forward and I think we are doing that. It’s really exciting to be a part of.”

This year’s theme was “Relentless Leadership” and the audience heard that topic integrated throughout the entire ceremony. A re-entry navigator from Goodwill Industries, Christopher Fincher, was the guest speaker for the meeting. Fincher discussed his previous hardships of re-entering the workforce after being incarcerated for most of the ‘90s. But with his relentless leadership skills, he is now working with those that were in similar situations and is helping them navigate their barriers.

CIC Treasurer David Figley talked about the CIC’s financial soundness. He reviewed the 2022 Financial Statement, a report showing $556,000 in assets, which was approved.

For the first time ever, the CIC handed out the Defiance County Economic Business Awards.

· Defiance County Business of the Year: Keller Logistics Group

· Excellence in Innovation: APT Manufacturing Solutions

· Best Place to Work: DECKED

· Best in the Industry: Holy Hill Media

· Best New Business: Phoenix Theatres Northtowne Mall

· Family-Owned Business of the Year: Jim Schmidt Family of Dealerships

· Veteran-Owned Business of the Year: Risner Auto Group

· Downtown Business of the Year: Eclectic Wallflower Boutique

Stay tuned for Business spotlights as the CIC office plans to highlight these Defiance County businesses.

At the conclusion of this year’s meeting, Nighswander reported the re-election of officers, the approval of minor changes to the CIC by-laws (which included updating terms from 3 years to 4 years), and in 2024 there will be open Board Seats available for anyone interested.

Members who couldn’t make it to the meeting, are invited to go to our website:

www. for more information.

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