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Issue Date: May 2007 Issue

The Faces and Places of Lorian County

Between the 492 square miles of space, a population growth of 4 percent between 2000 and 2005, and the surge of new development throughout the region, these days the more accurate name for Lorain County is “Boomtown.” Take a look at some of the individuals and businesses that are reshaping this area.
Tschanen Niederkohr
Movers +  Shakers

Here’s the thing about people: They can make or break a place, just like that. Throughout Lorain County, entrepreneurs, pioneers and true-blue county boosters are championing the place they call home. Here, from a European immigrant to a 70-year-old  EMT, are five people Lorain County couldn’t live without.
The Businessman

Bob Fisher’s first car was nothing fancy — just his mother’s old 1972 Buick Centurion. His stepfather’s 1978 Dodge Coronet followed.
But the car itself never has been key to Fisher; it’s the business side of the car he loves.

 “I’m not a car nut. I’m not passionate about cars. I’m passionate about business and development and improving the economy,” Fisher says.
Fisher, president of Premier Toyota of Amherst, started selling cars at Ed Byrnes Chevrolet in New Hampshire in 1981. He fell in love with the job.

“What a great mentor,” he says of Byrnes. “He was into customer satisfaction before it was a buzzword. I really learned the business from the right side as the customer coming first and the employees coming first.”

Fisher worked his way up through dealerships in New Hampshire and Virginia, and eventually Toyota Motor Sales USA selected Fisher to bring its franchise into Lorain County.

“I’m a workaholic. I enjoy teaching, sharing our business, mentoring others within my business and others,” Fisher says. “I’m excited to personally make a difference in Lorain County as a catalyst in moving the economy forward.”

The Organizer

He started out as a registered nurse in New Orleans. The siren song of a law career called him away for a time, but, says the president and CEO of Lorain’s Community Health Partners, “my calling in life, if you will, is working with people to help take care of sick people and working with other health care workers to do that.” He eventually returned to his first love, and today Mark Nosacka is happily ensconced in the job of his dreams.

“I wanted to move to an area where there would be a challenging, exciting opportunity for me as a hospital health care leader,” he says, “and at the same time would provide a schooling system that would serve my children well.” He found everything he was looking for in Lorain County.

This year, CHP plans to develop the Great Lakes Institute for orthopedics, neurology, spinal issues and rehab, and hopes to achieve stroke center certification. It also aims to improve access to heart services and grow its Wound Care Center. And it’s already reaping the benefits of new technology at the CHP Ireland Cancer Center.

“The challenge of running a health care system in today’s world, it doesn’t leave me much free time,” he explains. “The hospital business and health care is a relationship business. In order to provide really great care and move forward, our motto is innovate, innovate, innovate.”
The People Person

At the end of the year, Maud de la Porte will be 71. She’ll hang up her stethoscope at LifeCare Ambulance and start volunteering her time to other organizations, because she still has a lot of help left to give.

“I love to interact with people,” she says. “I’m truly a people person. I love to see someone come in without a lot of self-confidence and then walk out and do something that they never thought they could.”

De la Porte, who is from the Netherlands, started out as a trauma nurse in Europe before winding up in Lorain County in the early 1980s. She worked for a time with the Eaton Township EMS until her son began working for an ambulance company in Elyria. De la Porte followed and helped build the business into Life-Care, taking care of the day-to-day operations of the emergency and transportation ambulance company.

 “We grew from a very small company,” she reminisces. “We learned by falling, stepping up and going on, doing everything wrong and doing everything right and going against all odds. And somewhere we must’ve done something right.”

LifeCare has grown into a company with 178 people on the payroll, and de la Porte says they’ve made her fall in love with the county and want to give back. Her focus after retirement will be Genesis House Domestic Violence Center.

“It interests me how you can really focus on one person and be a support system and that you can really help someone who can’t defend herself and children that cannot speak for themselves,” she says. “I hope to help, even if it’s only a hair.”
The Money Man

Vlad Meltzer left his native Belarus 16 years ago, arriving in Ohio with $300 for his family of three, knowing no one and possessing limited English skills. He’s spent the last two-and-a-half years in Lorain County, utilizing the skills he realized as a teenager with a love for math and economics.

“I started to be interested in economics when I was probably 15 years old,” he says. “Between economics and politics as well, I’ve just been interested in it.”

He was an asset-based and commercial construction lender in Belarus for GosBank, one of three state-owned banks in the former U.S.S.R. These days, he works as a senior lending adviser for North Coast Mortgage Corp.

“Money has to be in motion,” he says. “One of my biggest passions is to release trapped equity we have in the region; not all of it, but partially. 

 “In the simple way, I’m a loan officer. I have positioned myself in that I’ve been a lender/banker kind of a financial adviser,” he explains. He is working with residential and commercial lending to bring local industry back to life, and his passion for the county is evident. He says he won’t leave Lorain County for one simple reason: the heart and spirit of the county.
The Banker

Kenton Thompson is more of a big bank leader than a big band leader.

Thompson, 50, president of the North Coast Region of the First Place banking family, recently began overseeing the Lorain County branches, as well as branches in North Olmsted and Solon. That means big banking, not big bands like his namesake, Stan Kenton.

Thompson has been in banking all of his adult life, starting with a community bank in the Youngstown area before eventually arriving at First Place. In his new role as a leader of a community-driven company, he wants to make big-bank services and products available to each person who banks at First Place.

“Lorain County is a wonderful market,” Thompson says. “I see the business leaders and the customers I meet are excited about this community and its prospects.” He says the bank can play a role in economic development and business expansion, something he notices with his background in commercial lending.

Small banks are facing problems in keeping up with technology and regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and he wants to stay ahead of the curve.

“First Place Bank, I believe, is very well placed for the future because we are large enough that we can make investments in technology, product upgrades, and most importantly, our people,” he says, “to hire the best people in the market and deliver what they are looking for.”

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