Last updated: April 19. 2014 5:13PM - 625 Views
By Brian Bondus Dayton Daily News

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BELLEFONTAINE — The Logan County Chamber of Commerce and area landlords are targeting early Honda retirees to start new businesses in the county’s empty downtown storefronts.

“We will give the newly retired several months and hopefully their spouses will be kicking them out the house telling them to find something to do with their spare time,” Logan County Chamber of Commerce President Paul Benedetti said jokingly.

Honda recently made a change to its pension program, which for the first time includes the option for retiring associates to take an unlimited lump sum payment, Honda Spokesman Ron Lietzke said.

This change caused a influx of early retirees, because the new benefit package, which started March 1, was not as beneficial, Benedetti said.

In a prepared statement Honda explained how the pension program changed after March 1. “Due to an annual interest rate adjustment by the U.S. Department of Treasury that applies to the pension funds of all employers, the lump sum payment was lower for Honda associates retiring after March 1, 2014. As a result, a large number of associates requested retirement packets containing their individual pension information and options.”

Lietzke said Honda does not comment on its business operations, so it wouldn’t discuss any other changes to benefits. He would also not discuss how many employees retired, but local business leaders estimate it was around 800.

“The Honda associates are typically young, at their 30-year retirement and they also appear to be well-funded. So with those two ingredients we are hopeful we are starting a winning campaign,” Benedetti said.

Logan County’s downtown district lost a lot of stores because of the 2008-09 recession, and Benedetti is hoping to restore the districts to prerecession levels.

He hopes to inspire the retirees to open small boutique stores that will carry products they have passions for.

The Simon Kenton Bike Path is expected to be extended to Bellefontaine this summer, which he said would be a perfect opportunity for someone to open a bike store in the county.

Will Zell is a landlord, business owner and entrepreneur in Logan County. He has two empty locations in downtown Bellefontaine and would love to get them filled. He would not only benefit from the rental income, but would also get more foot traffic to the coffee shop he owns, Sweet Aromas.

“It’s really a huge responsibility and very important as a community to see the storefronts occupied with great, thriving businesses,” Zell said. “It’s all about offering them a great time and great experience downtown. So the more businesses that there are, the more restaurants, the more the merrier really for people to experience the different attributes of the community.”

Benedetti said there is no timeline on this initiative, but said his job will not be done until all the storefronts are filled.

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