Business loan brings jobs, growth to Appalachian Ohio county

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Heather Hartley
(614) 255-2394
This is a nighttime photo of the Sibley Mart in Tuscarawas County, Ohio

For years, Jim Bouhachem was a successful senior design engineer for vehicle manufacturing giants like General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Navistar. His job was to inspire the present by imagining the future; integrating advanced technology into concept vehicles we take for granted on the road today.
   But as long hours of seated work began to take its toll, Jim realized the unrelenting back pain he was suffering would never abate. “My brother is an orthopedic surgeon,” said Jim. “He told me, ‘the best thing to do is find another job.’ I was speechless, but I knew he was right.”
   Prospecting potential businesses, Jim found a local man who wanted to sell his convenience store in the Village of Strasburg (Tuscarawas County), Ohio. He purchased the property in 2007, making numerous updates and improvements. Thus began Jim Bouhachem’s career as a rural small business owner.
   A half a decade later and with several successful ventures under his belt, Jim found the perfect spot of land upon which to test his business acumen again. Located just 15 minutes south of his Strasburg convenience mart, the lot was situated close to the campus of Kent State University at Tuscarawas, virtually guaranteeing a healthy flow of traffic. Still a designer at heart, he set to work.
   “I’m a hands-on kind of guy,” said Jim. “I sketched out plans and listened to ideas from customers at our other locations. And when we went looking for a loan, I wanted to keep it local. I prefer small, face-to-face business relationships … community and family are everything.”
   Jim worked closely with USDA Ohio Rural Development Business Program Specialist Randy Monhemius and a local, New Philadelphia-based bank to secure a $2.4 million USDA Business and Industry loan with an 80 percent guarantee. The new store officially opened in November 2015, and just as Jim anticipated, it’s going gangbusters.
   “We use local labor – and that means everybody – from cleaners and maintenance workers to clerks,” he said. “We’ve hired 11 new employees and already know we need at least two more!”
   You might wonder if Jim misses his old days of imagining the future, but he says he really never stopped. In fact, he already has his eye on another parcel of land.
   “What I’m doing now, it makes me happy,” he said. “The sky is the limit. The only question is how far do I want to go?”

Fast Facts

Obligation Amount$2,475,000
Date of ObligationMay 2015
Congressional DistrictRepresentative Johnson, OH-6; Representative Gibbs, OH-7
Senator's Last NamesBrown and Portman