November 2012 Issue
Best Hometowns 2013: Findlay
Every year, Ohio Magazine honors five communities across the
state for their livability, as measured by education, parks and
recreation, arts and entertainment offerings, services and, most
important, citizen involvement.
The 2013 Best Hometowns meet and surpass these criteria. In the
following pages, you'll get a glimpse of Findlay, Gallipolis,
Greenville, Grove City and Peninsula — and some of their proud
Hancock County, 40 miles south of Toledo
17.3 square miles
Type of government:
Mayor and 10-member council
After a devastating 2007 flood submerged portions of the city, Findlay
had a choice: Sink or swim. Hundreds of buildings, including homes,
businesses and schools, were damaged when heavy rain caused the
Blanchard River to rise. Downtown saw more boats on its roads than cars.
The governor declared a state of emergency for the area, which made the
national news. The clean-up wasn’t easy, nor was it quick, but by
banding together residents and business owners got the town back into
shape. And then some.
Five years later, the city, located about an hour south of Toledo, shows
little sign of the disaster. Downtown is booming, thanks in part to an
influx of artists and new boutiques and eateries that are popping up to
serve them and the professionals who work at the Hancock County
Courthouse. Run-down buildings were razed and public patios and
mini-parks have replaced them. Parking is a hot commodity during
dinnertime, when people flock downtown to dine in the city’s array of
restaurants. Just outside of downtown, the city’s stock of vintage
Victorian homes (one of the largest in the state) is meticulously
Founded during the War of 1812, Findlay has its origins as a fort. But
it wasn’t until the 1880s that a short-lived gas and oil boom caused the
population to soar. Even after the gas supply dwindled, the city
continued to grow, with an economy based on industry and agriculture.
Today, it’s home to the world headquarters of Fortune 500 companies
Marathon Petroleum Corp., and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. Other
significant employers are Whirlpool Corp., Cardinal Health and the
University of Findlay, a private institution with an enrollment of
A sense of perseverance and a strong business climate are not the only
reasons Flag City U.S.A., as Findlay is known, is a great place to live.
Families find an outstanding quality of life here. Findlay public
schools are rated “Excellent” by the Ohio Department of Education and
three new school buildings are under construction.
Young athletes have top-notch facilities at the Flag City Sports
Complex, a sprawling park with baseball diamonds, soccer fields and
ice-skating. Canoeing and tennis are available at Riverside Park, a
lovely green expanse resting above the winding and normally tranquil
Young and old alike find their schedules packed with activities. The
Fort Findlay Playhouse offers local theater, and a few miles away,
touring bands play at Huntington Bank Arena. Events like the Flag City
Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Downtown Winter Blues Festival keep
things lively year-round. It’s no wonder the city has been named one of
the 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance,
a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth.
But it’s engaged, community-minded people who make a place great, and
Findlay has that in abundance. The way the community came together in
2007 to clean up after the flood is typical of the city, which boasts a
surprising number of third- and fourth-generation residents.
“I love the people here,” says Main Street Deli proprietor and Findlay
resident Elaine Bruggeman. Residents, she notes, are “extremely
Even downtown restaurants work together rather than competing for
business, explains Bruggeman. For example, leftover bread from her deli
is given to a nearby restaurant to make croutons for their own menu.
That sort of thing, which might be unthinkable in another community, is
par for the course here.
Given the choice, it’s clear after five years that Findlay decided to swim.