Summit Touts Area's Future

CELINA — Representatives from area businesses, organizations, cities and more gathered at a local college campus as part of the campus’ second regional summit on Friday.

Wright State University Lake Campus on Friday held its second Lake Campus Regional Summit — a gathering that has become an annual event at the school’s main campus in Dayton and one that was expanded to the local campus in 2011.

To kick off this year’s summit, which was titled “Past, Present and Future: Improving the Quality of Life in West Central Ohio,” Lake Campus Dean Bonnie Mathies welcomed attendees and recognized local elected officials, members of the West Central Ohio Educational Foundation (WOEF) Board members and Wright State Board of Trustees.

She also noted a sheet that was contained the results of the 2011 Regional Summit.

“These are the things that we picked up, the main points, we heard last year as the conversation went on, and those on the right side are things that we have been able to address or respond to some of those issues and concerns,” Mathies said. “So we did pay attention, and it’s important that as you go through this day with the roundtable discussion that you say what you have been thinking and would like us to know.”

Next, Sen. Keith Faber read a proclamation for the WOEF board, in honor of them celebrating 50 years this year.

Following Faber’s presentation, Mathies introduced the event’s keynote speaker — Jeff Monfort, president of Fort Inc. and owner/operator of McDonald’s stores in Wapakoneta, St. Marys, Celina and Coldwater.

Monfort first thanked the WOEF Board and the Wright State University Lake Campus.

“It’s an honor to be here,” Monfort said. “I look around here, and to me it’s like speaking to the choir because we all sing the same song, and that song is building better communities. We know that a better community means we have a better region and that’s really why we’re all here today.”

Monfort noted he hears about quality of life in the area a lot with the young people he works around.

“In terms of improving the quality of life in our area, I get the if onlys,” he said. “If only we could get Grand Lake cleaned up. If only we could attract major industry with high-paying jobs, then we would have quality of life. You know what, those are the silver bullets, and you know what, we’ve got a lot of people in this room here who are working on those silver bullets and who by the way are doing a pretty darn good job on that.”

Monfort said his question — and the question of the average teenager — is what happens between those silver bullets.

“They don’t live for the what ifs or the if onlys,” he said. “They live in a world —they live an Instant Messaging world, and so they don’t have time, and they’re not interested in the wait-and-see approach that maybe we’ve gotten used to.”

Monfort noted he was there to talk about “little hinges,” something he learned from his grandson, noting “little hinges swing big doors” and his three little hinges toward improving the quality of life in West Central Ohio.

“Hinges are not, they’re not flashy, they’re pretty small hardware, but they’re very effective,” Monfort said. “They do carry a lot of weight.”

The first “hinge” he said was “I stories.”

“We are the region’s best billboards and image ambassadors that this region is going to have, and we all have a story to tell,” Monfort said. “We need to be proud, and I think we need to be proud out loud — proud out loud on why we chose to live here, why we chose to work here, why we chose to do business and raise our families here.”

He then told his own “I story” on how he moved his family out to Montana, and then eventually came back — noting everything he needed was here all the time.

“The next generation needs to know they can have far-reaching aspirations without ever having to move away,” Monfort said.

Hinge No. 2, he said, was innovation and reinvestment.

“Generation Y, they’re always asking why, and they’re always looking for innovation,” he said. “They’re looking for the newest versions of their old favorites ... We need to make sure we’re reinvesting and we’re being innovative because it won’t go unnoticed and it won’t go unrewarded.”

He gave Wright State University Lake Campus as an example of reinvesting in their company, with its increased enrollment and new dorms, and his own McDonald’s restaurants in the area — next month remodeling the St. Marys restaurant, both interior and exterior, and putting a double-lane drive-through, as well as rebuilding the Wapakoneta restaurant next year.

“The last hinge is what I call giving back,” Monfort said, noting a quote from McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc noting the social responsibility to give back to the communities in which they do business and also the importance of building brand trust. “I think it’s OK to think locally, and I think it’s OK to think regionally, but we need to always make sure that we act locally.”

He noted giving back “builds the trust account.”

“I’ve also found that giving back also, as a personal thing, I found that most people wait until they die to give back, and I would suggest making sure you give back while you can enjoy watching the fruit,” Monfort said, noting the example of a recent visit he had with a Wapakoneta Middle School classroom that received McDonald’s grant money. “I surely will not forget that day.”

He ended with a quote: A rising tide raises all the boats in the harbor.

“I believe quality of life it is that rising tide, and it will raise all the boats in the harbor,” Monfort said.

“We need to guard it, I think we need to promote it, our quality of life in West Central Ohio because that’s why we moved from Montana back here because I think we’ve got it going on right here. So we you meet today, I would challenge all of us to think outside the silver bullets and save room for the little hinge ideas that might be out there.”

After Monfort spoke, there were three presentations: Connecting with Community with Nancy Bowen and Julie Miller, Connecting with Technology with representatives, including students, from Celina City Schools and Connecting with Culture with Susan Pittman. In addition to the three presentations and the roundtable discussions that followed them, attendees also heard from Wright State University President David Hopkins and visited the various exhibits set up outside James F. Dicke Hall.