Business drives our communities. It makes them grow and succeed. And business success breeds more business success.

That’s the case with a group of Lorain County organizations — Team Lorain County, the cities of Oberlin and North Ridgeville and the Lorain County Growth Partnership — who joined forces to help GreenField Solar Corp., a solar-cell technology company, establish its headquarters in Oberlin. Their efforts earned a Business Attraction Award at the Fourth Annual Team NEO Economic Development Plus Awards Dinner recognizing economic-development achievements in the region.

Steve Morey, president and CEO of Team Lorain County, says the award shows how the county is entering the advanced-energy marketplace. “Having an emerging-industry company choose to be here because of the support this region can give is a real coup,” he says. “Our business assets are what sealed the deal.”

The county’s assets include a location that has embraced the idea of clean technology and green energy. “That is evidenced through programs like the wind-turbine training program at Lorain County Community College and through several green-building projects that Oberlin College is taking part in,” Morey explains.

Team NEO’s senior vice president of business attraction, Jay Foran, says the level of effort, coordination and professionalism shown in the fight to land GreenField Solar tipped the scales in favor of the Lorain County organizations. “We understood that the Lorain County groups did a spectacular job in making a business case for why this location was the best and most suitable for the GreenField headquarters,” he says.

GreenField Solar employs about 30, with plans to expand to close to 200 over the next several years. The headquarters and research and development will be in Oberlin with manufacturing space located in North Ridgeville — so two communities will reap the benefits. “GreenField was a company hatched at NASA Glenn, so the manufacturing lab was already here, but they were exploring different places to locate the headquarters,” says Morey. California was in the hunt, but with so many county organizations working together to court GreenField to Oberlin, Lorain County took the lead.

“This region is so well suited to handle manufacturing growth,” says Morey, “This is taking what we know how to do and have done very well — manufacturing — and bringing it into the 21st century and beyond. We’re taking skills we already have and applying them to something relevant to the future.”

Keys to Leadership

Dr. Roy A. Church, Lorain County Community College president since 1987, was honored with the H. Peter Burg Regional Vision Award. The award, Team NEO’s highest honor, is named for H. Peter Burg, the founder of Team NEO and late chairman and CEO of FirstEnergy Corp. It is presented to regional leaders who demonstrate his legacy. Dr. Church received the award because of his leadership of LCCC, his dedication to improving education and his successful efforts toward collaboration and regionalism. A few of his programs that were applauded include:

University Partnership — linking eight regional universities and improving access to education.

Innovation Alliance — a partnership between LCCC and the University of Akron to share communication between the schools, improving efficiency, knowledge and accessibility.

Innovation Fund — a regional fund created to support and develop emerging technologies spinning out of regional colleges.