Best Hometowns 2012: Findlay
Every year, Ohio Magazine honors five communities across the state for their livability, as measured by education, parks and recreation, arts and entertainment offerings, services and, most important, citizen involvement. The 2013 Best Hometowns meet and surpass these criteria. In the following pages, you'll get a glimpse of Findlay, Gallipolis, Greenville, Grove City and Peninsula — and some of their proud residents.
Year founded: 1812
Location: Hancock County, 40 miles south of Toledo
Size: 17.3 square miles
Type of government: Mayor and 10-member council
After a devastating 2007 flood submerged portions of the city, Findlay had a choice: Sink or swim. Hundreds of buildings, including homes, businesses and schools, were damaged when heavy rain caused the Blanchard River to rise. Downtown saw more boats on its roads than cars. The governor declared a state of emergency for the area, which made the national news. The clean-up wasn’t easy, nor was it quick, but by banding together residents and business owners got the town back into shape. And then some.
Five years later, the city, located about an hour south of Toledo, shows little sign of the disaster. Downtown is booming, thanks in part to an influx of artists and new boutiques and eateries that are popping up to serve them and the professionals who work at the Hancock County Courthouse. Run-down buildings were razed and public patios and mini-parks have replaced them. Parking is a hot commodity during dinnertime, when people flock downtown to dine in the city’s array of restaurants. Just outside of downtown, the city’s stock of vintage Victorian homes (one of the largest in the state) is meticulously maintained.
Founded during the War of 1812, Findlay has its origins as a fort. But it wasn’t until the 1880s that a short-lived gas and oil boom caused the population to soar. Even after the gas supply dwindled, the city continued to grow, with an economy based on industry and agriculture. Today, it’s home to the world headquarters of Fortune 500 companies Marathon Petroleum Corp., and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. Other significant employers are Whirlpool Corp., Cardinal Health and the University of Findlay, a private institution with an enrollment of 3,700.
A sense of perseverance and a strong business climate are not the only reasons Flag City U.S.A., as Findlay is known, is a great place to live. Families find an outstanding quality of life here. Findlay public schools are rated “Excellent” by the Ohio Department of Education and three new school buildings are under construction.
Young athletes have top-notch facilities at the Flag City Sports Complex, a sprawling park with baseball diamonds, soccer fields and ice-skating. Canoeing and tennis are available at Riverside Park, a lovely green expanse resting above the winding and normally tranquil Blanchard River.
Young and old alike find their schedules packed with activities. The Fort Findlay Playhouse offers local theater, and a few miles away, touring bands play at Huntington Bank Arena. Events like the Flag City Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Downtown Winter Blues Festival keep things lively year-round. It’s no wonder the city has been named one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance, a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth.
But it’s engaged, community-minded people who make a place great, and Findlay has that in abundance. The way the community came together in 2007 to clean up after the flood is typical of the city, which boasts a surprising number of third- and fourth-generation residents.
“I love the people here,” says Main Street Deli proprietor and Findlay resident Elaine Bruggeman. Residents, she notes, are “extremely community oriented.”
Even downtown restaurants work together rather than competing for business, explains Bruggeman. For example, leftover bread from her deli is given to a nearby restaurant to make croutons for their own menu. That sort of thing, which might be unthinkable in another community, is par for the course here.
Given the choice, it’s clear after five years that Findlay decided to swim.