Tuesday, October 8th, 2019
Kuhn is Rockford Citizen of the Year
Fremont Co. is named business of the year
By Tom Stankard
The Fremont Co. employees Derek Pryer, from left, Tyler Westgerdes, Laura Kauffm. . .
ROCKFORD - An irreplaceable community member and a longstanding business were honored Monday night during the 46th annual Rockford Chamber of Commerce banquet.
The Citizen of the Year award has added meaning during Rockford's bicentennial year, last year's recipient, Steve Thompson, said before presenting the honor to village fiscal officer Lisa Kuhn.
"Our recipient is more deserving of this honor than anyone in the community due to the friendship she shows others," Thompson said, smiling.
In addition to working for the village, she is treasurer of Shanes Crossing Historical Society, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Rockford Community Days and is the organizer of Art in the Park, Thompson told the crowd.
"She is an indispensable fixture in the community and goes far beyond her job description as the the village fiscal officer, all for betterment of Rockford and its people," he said.
While growing up, Kuhn was lucky enough to spend quality time receiving careful guidance from her grandparents, who taught her the importance of family and how to pray. She has passed down these qualities to her children, Thompson said.
When not working, Kuhn enjoys traveling and going on an adventure, regardless of whether the time is spent outdoors cooking, sitting beside a campfire, boating and hiking a trail or indoors antiquing and visiting a museum, he said.
With a tear in her eye, Kuhn thanked the community for the award.
Plant manager Ken Pond accepted the Business of the Year Award on behalf of The Fremont Co. from previous winner Brand It Marketing founder Twyla Hayes.
The Rockford plant was established in 1924 by A.L. Sharp. At the time, it was called Sharp Canning Co., and its main product was canned tomatoes with ketchup as a byproduct.
In 1961, the Sharp family sold the business to The Fremont Co. That business was established in 1905 as the Fremont Kraut Co. by the Slessman family. Today, Chris Smith is the fourth-generation owner and current president.
The plant's focus changed over the years to making ketchup and barbecue sauce while also producing products for private labels and co-packing for several national labels. Today, the plant exports products to 60 foreign countries.
In 1999, an ice storm heavily damaged the plant, making it a challenge to replace all the older buildings while still maintaining production.
It took three years to rebuild but left the company with efficient and modern production equipment and a new facility. In 2018, The Fremont Co. began a $27 million expansion project that doubled the plant's size and capacity.
The business employs 155 full-time employees under Pond and assistant manager Tyler Westgerdes.
Hayes said "The Fremont Company is active in the community with donations from employees and the company," Hayes said. "They have helped fund the Rockford Ministerial Association and the Parkway schools lunch program for students in need."
"The company also donates product to the Western Ohio Food Bank and other food banks in the area," she added.
"This is truly unexpected," Pond said. "It's been quite the year. We finally have everything up and running well. It should help us be part of the community for years to come. The plant has a good crew of people who work hard."
New businesses and professionals were also honored including Curvy Closet, Flower Power Sweets and Treats, Laura Putnam Photography, Luginbill Construction, Second Crossing Brew Co., SPC Photography, Stained Glass Paradise, Wellness 365, Women in Business, Mercer Metal and SchoolHouse Farms 1862.