EAST LIVERPOOL - As part of his annual summer tour across the state, The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee visited a local pottery which recently gained national notice by snaring a contract to produce American-made ware for Starbucks.
Gee and his entourage that included a group of OSU interns stopped at American Mug and Stein, where owner Clyde McClellan told them how his business nearly tanked in 2008 but is now growing, thanks to a phone call he received last fall.
The interns "learn about businesses that are uniquely Ohio," according to Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president of student life, who also was on the trip.
Morning Journal/Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert
Ohio State University mascot Brutus gave a hand to American Mug and Stein worker Bob Davis during a stop at the East Liverpool pottery Wednesday by OSU officials and interns.
She said Gee visits 44 counties throughout the state, going to various businesses and areas with the interns who are "spreading goodwill about OSU while learning."
McClellan told the group he purchased the former Pioneer Pottery in 2009 when the market had just crashed, saying it was "pretty much a leap of faith."
Eight months later, he received an unexpected call from a California sales rep saying he had an interested customer. The rest became history and national news earlier this summer when it was announced that the customer was Starbucks and that American Mug and Stein would be producing a new "Indivisible" mug for the company.
McClellan said this new partnership has allowed his company to increase its employee roster, which had fallen to just four workers.
He also outlined for the interns how he, the sales rep and a Japanese businessman are now opening a pottery in New Waterford, utilizing state-of-the-art equipment heretofore seen pretty much only in China.
The students learned from McClellan that "the situation in China has changed," because "the government wants to get out of subsidizing workers and want the companies to take over."
According to McClellan, Chinese pottery owners were accustomed to making "huge profits off cheap labor," and when they learned it will cost 60-70 percent more to begin paying higher wages and benefits, they began closing companies.
With high unemployment, a large workforce and available factories, American businesses are now ripe to step up and replace those companies, McClellan said.
"It's an exciting time for our business," he told the group.
As Gee and the group ended their tour, McClellan took the opportunity to encourage them to buy American products for OSU and was informed by Adams-Gaston the university is already a "Buy Ohio" agency.
"We want to keep jobs, money and kids in Ohio," Gee told him in no uncertain terms, adding, "It's great to see what you're doing here. This is a great story."
As vice chairman of JobsOhio, Gee said the focus is on job creation in the state. McClellan said he is working with JobsOhio.
As the group headed for their bus for the next tour stop, Gee joked with McClellan, "We want to see you succeed, so we'll start drinking a lot of coffee at Starbucks."
Other stops on the tour included Pickaway Competitiveness Network, Laurelville Grain and Mill, Poth family farm, Stark State College, Pine Crest Tree Farm, Schwebel's Bakery, Heini's Cheese House and Germain Barn Party in Howard.
In a prepared release, Gee said, "The state is our campus. We need to be in every corner of the state from farm and fields to major metropolitan cities to connect our institution with the hearts and minds of Ohioans. As a land-grant university, that is our calling and responsibility."