LIMA — Jeff Blanford’s careers don’t always get along.
During the day, he provides dental advice to his patients. But at night, he might be feeding them “molten brownies” and ice cream as a downtown restaurateur.
Owner of the Hollander on Main, Blanford recognized that physicians hold a special place in Allen County. As individuals with some of the highest incomes, he figured they held some responsibility in injecting funds back into the community. He opened his downtown restaurant roughly a year ago.
“What Lima needs is a revitalization of its downtown. … You see a bunch of empty storefronts. We look like a Flint, Michigan,” he said.
The problem with Lima’s attraction to outside individuals, Blanford said, is that while other towns are working to fill up storefronts with local businesses and attract white collar workers, Lima looks abandoned. That doesn’t look good to outside investment.
Blandford decided to take a personal ownership in that problem. His next project is a microbrewery next to the Hollander.
Allen Economic Development Group CEO Jeff Sprague said Blanford has the right idea to help the city’s developmental problems. Downtowns are often the cultural center of a town, Sprague said, and Lima needs to be aware that many individuals who may be interested in applying for one of the 1,338 jobs in the area will also examine the city’s cultural experience.
“I think the downtown is coming around. A rapid change can occur quickly, in a handful of years,” Blanford said.
Blanford’s approach isn’t entirely unheard of. Other players in the healthcare industry identify community development as an organizational goal.
“That’s one of our key objectives every year,” Mercy Health-St. Rita’s HR Director Jennifer Van Tilbaugh said. “The expectation is that everyone works at it — at both the corporate and individual level.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.