In a year when normalcy was upended by the coronavirus, the Village of Archbold survived 2020 surprisingly better than other communities, Mayor Brad Grime said.
While the village of more than 4,300 residents took its share of COVID-19 hits, a generally stable business community helped carry it through economically and kept doors open. “We fared pretty well. We weathered the storm pretty good, probably better than most communities,” Grime said.
He attributed Archbold’s healthy income tax revenue this year to the the village’s diverse industries, some of which actually thrived despite the state’s coronavirus restrictions. Grime said companies such as ConAgra, Frozen Specialties, and the village’s largest employer, Sauder Village, remained solid by providing products that stayed in demand throughout the pandemic.
“Of course, we have businesses that are suffering, and, trust me, they’ve had their challenges,” he said. “Not every business is doing great, but at least I’m not seeing ‘For Sale’ signs going up. Some of the smaller shops were able to stay open. I’m assuming they’re holding their own. We don’t have a lot of empty storefronts.”
The pandemic’s largest challenges were probably dropped on Archbold’s restaurants, as they maneuvered through strict social distancing regulations that ate into business. “But it seemed like, early on, people in the village rallied for them,” Grime said. Not one has been lost to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The coronavirus also caused sales to initially drop at the village’s auto dealerships, “but they got creative and they’re still selling cars,” Grime said.
“I think our community did surprisingly well – some people worse than others, but some industry that picked us up and carried us through,” he added. “We’re doing pretty well, to be quite honest. It could have been worse, and I think some communities were hit a little harder. Luckily, we got a little a bit of diversity in our industry that kind of helps us.”
According to Village Administrator Donna Dettling, Fulton County’s Small Business Assistance Program included Archbold, although no information regarding the village was available.
She said as of November village income tax receipts were down 1.8% from the same period last year, up from an 8.9% loss experienced in June. She said village parks reportedly lost an estimated $145,000 from canceled recreation activities but the loss was offset by unneeded payroll and expenses.
All village employees were put on paid administrative leave between March and May but their pay was covered under the government’s COVID relief funding. Dettling said all village departments were asked to create plans to reduce spreading the virus. “These strategies were used to ensure that the maximum number of employees self-isolated so we could preserve the workforce and allow operations to continue,” she said.
Grime said the village operations also adjusted well to the pandemic, with all departments remaining open and no staff layoffs. The mayor said, however, the parks program likely suffered the most. Fear of spreading the coronavirus left the summer baseball program canceled and the village pool closed for the season.
Capital improvements projects were at first delayed, but nearly all eventually moved forward. A complete street, sanitary, and water rebuild of Rosewood Court was removed from the table due to the pandemic’s uncertain conditions, “but looking back, we probably could have had that project done,” Grime said. The $1.4 million renovation will be completed in 2021.
Grime said village projects are also moving forward in the coming year including two major street improvements, water and sewage plant improvements, a new village lift station, a new water tower, and the continuation of ConAgra’s $40 million expansion. Some projects are being readied for the bidding stage.
“This coming year we have a lot of ambitious projects being done. It’s going to be a busy season for us,” Grime said. “We’re moving along.”
The satisfaction of residents throughout the pandemic was a mixed bag, he said. “Some people understand it; others, it just seems like the virus has become politicized…You’re always going to have people who agree with what you’ve done, and you’re going to have a lot of people who disagree.”
Four full-time EMS personnel have received the COVID vaccine, and overall Archbold has weathered the pandemic well, Grime said. He believes the worst of the village’s COVID-19 related economic hardships are past, but knows the village hasn’t entirely cleared the COVID-19 storm.
“I think we’re just learning to deal with things a lot better,” he said. “We’re a pretty optimistic community. Eventually, this is going to be gone, I hope.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.