BIDWELL — Something is brewing in Bidwell — namely, Silver Bridge Coffee.
Earlier this week, Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (R) visited the company which, due to demand and thanks in part to a grant, will be adding a new roaster.
As reported last year via a news release from Gallia County Economic & Community Development, JobsOhio and Ohio Southeast Economic Development (OhioSE), the company received a $50,000 JobsOhio Inclusion Grant to assist with machinery and equipment costs.
Lorraine Walker, president of the Silver Bridge Coffee Company, gave Husted a tour of the facility, explaining the brand’s humble beginnings from a 14-x-14 space which had formerly been her laundry room, to, as last year’s news release stated, “importing fine fair trade and organic coffee from around the world and selling to major grocery chains, independent grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries throughout Ohio and the United States.”
Established in 2008, Walker said she started the business to create a job for herself but currently, she has six full-time employees with two more starting next month. Also, starting July 1, employees will have 100 percent health insurance coverage and life insurance benefits. She said employees are a big part of the success of Silver Bridge Coffee.
“There’s nobody doing this alone, there’s no business owner out there that can say, ‘I built this business’..it’s always a ‘we built this business,’” she said during Thursday’s visit. “I know we are a woman-owned business but I always like to say we are woman-owned and we’re family supported because there is absolutely no way I would be here if I didn’t have the support of my husband, my family, especially during COVID when things were difficult, everybody pitched in.”
Husted said he chose to visit Silver Bridge Coffee to see for himself an Ohio “homegrown business” which had worked with JobsOhio to help expand operations.
“Homegrown businesses hire local people, they take good care of them, they give them good wages and benefits and help create a lot of opportunities here people didn’t previously have,” Husted said, pointing out every bag of coffee sold brought money back to the area to create more prosperity.
“I love the story about how California loved to buy Ohio coffee…so, we’re selling a lot of coffee to California,” he said. “We’ll take their money and we’ll spend it here in Ohio.”
Husted said the state along with JobsOhio were putting a focus on growing jobs in Southeast Ohio.
When asked how to uplift businesses, specifically in Southeast Ohio in regards to overcoming hurdles other areas may not face, Husted said: “In life, you don’t know how to go somewhere, usually, unless you’ve had somebody show you…usually, you have to ask somebody who’s been there what the best way is to get where you need to go. That’s why creating homegrown businesses is so important, because they are going to inspire entrepreneurs who are going to be able to contact businesses like this…and say , ‘Hey, how did you start your business? Where do I go? What are the resources?’”
Husted said by providing resources to homegrown businesses, those owners “can help guide people through resources, so the next person has someone to turn to. If you don’t have a vibrant, entrepreneurial economy, then people don’t know where to turn.”
Husted explained there needed to be a focus on supporting small businesses in Ohio, many of which were greatly affected by the pandemic. He spoke about finding state resources for small businesses and “in the end it’s a smart thing to do because we’ll get the return back on that” — citing job creation and money going into local economies.
In addition to giving back to the local economy, Walker said Silver Bridge Coffee Company was also able to give back beyond the borders of Ohio by joining a foundation that supports women in coffee-producing countries. The foundation funded 13 early childhood centers in Peru in 2021 into 2022. Walker said this meant they were able to give back to the people producing the coffee they sell.
“We are also very aware, in addition to our employees, we’re very aware that it’s the customers that have put us where we are today,” Walker said. “Everytime you choose to purchase a local coffee from a local bakery, or whatever…you’re helping your area create jobs and to move forward.”
In addition to visiting Silver Bridge Coffee Company on Thursday, Husted also visited the University of Rio Grande’s Jackson Center to hear about a manufacturing program involving partnerships with Rio, Wellston High School and Jackson County Job and Family Services, according to a news release from Husted’s office.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.