USDA Business and Cooperative Programs Administrator Judith Canales and Ohio Rural Development Director Tony Logan recently paid a visit to Troy, Ohio’s 3 Sigma Corporation to see how the company is utilizing its $2.25 million USDA Business & Industry loan guarantee. Among other things, the funds are helping finance the purchase, transportation and installation of a 78-inch wide aqueous (water-based emulsion) coater, financed through First Financial Bank of Dayton.
In business since 1980, 3 Sigma specializes in custom pressure-sensitive products and specialty coatings. But this technology goes well beyond diaper fasteners and sticky tape! Have you ever noticed those clever little holographic tags inside ball caps and on other wearable items? That’s a 3 Sigma-engineered counterfeit-detection system. The peel-off coupon that doesn’t shred your Sunday morning paper? 3 Sigma. That authentic backstage pass to your favorite rock star’s show? Chances are 3 Sigma may have had a hand in its creation.
In fact, this process-driven company has worked with such giants as Proctor & Gamble, Target, Wal-Mart and General Motors, designing applications specific to each businesses’ merchandising, security or outreach needs.
“That’s something we pride ourselves on: customer service,” said 3 Sigma President Tony Rowley. “We work in close collaboration with our customers to design the exact product they need. And this loan is going to double the capacity of this company! We expect to add seven or eight additional jobs once the new coater is online. We couldn’t be doing what we’re doing without all of you. Thank you!”
Rowley also said 3 Sigma has been able to hire several employees from other businesses that have recently closed; something Administrator Canales applauds and appreciates.
“Our whole purpose with (Business and Industry) loans and guarantees is to stimulate rural economies,” said Canales. “Banks are very keen on these programs because they allow (lenders) to do more. And it’s a bi-partisan program, which is great!”
Canales also said a return to manufacturing and production is the U.S.’s top priority. “Our true value here is to ensure companies such as yours are able to stay in your communities and grow.”
Later the same afternoon, Canales and Logan met with the organizers of “Energize Clinton County,” recent recipients of a $48,500 Rural Business Opportunity Grant.
ECC is a Wilmington, Ohio-based initiative that provides marketing and business development support for smaller retail, restaurant and agricultural businesses. Their “Buy Local First” campaign, which aims to teach residents the importance of keeping dollars circulating locally, began with a group of just 15 downtown business owners but now has more than 200 participating regional businesses and nearly 3,000 subscribers to their email distribution list.
“We are very excited about this USDA grant!” said Energize Clinton County Co-Director Mark Rembert, who spearheaded the presentation. “We’ve been extremely hard hit by the recession here, losing about 10,000 jobs since DHL Express left the Wilmington Air Park in 2009.”
Rembert said the RBOG funds will help create a technical training center that will serve communities in a seven-county region in rural southwest and south central Ohio, including Clinton, Fayette, Highland, Adams, Ross, Pike and Scioto counties. The idea, he explained, isn’t to replace existing economic development activities, but rather to enhance them.
“Working collaboratively is critical to our future,” said Rembert. “The creation of the training center will allow us to transfer our experience to others. We feel their impact and they feel ours. The more we share, the more positive the impact will be.”
“I’m very pleased – energized, really – by what you’ve shown us so far,” said Canales, smiling. “This grant, this tool, is for this very purpose: to help local communities do an assessment of the business sector to determine what is the ‘value added’ for them. There has to be a ‘win-win!’ We look forward to continuing to partner with you as you continue to grow.”
State Director Tony Logan agreed. “You’re knocking on the right doors,” he told the group. “Keep it up!”
Clinton County Commissioner Randy Riley said the average area unemployment rate of 12.7 percent presents a challenge, but is not a game-breaker as long as the community and region sticks together.
“We’re no longer an island. We not only shared the pain, we’re sharing the resources. We’re going to weather this storm and get through it, and we’re certainly hoping we can keep helping each other.”