Ministry Monday: Entrepreneurs ‘give back’ with jobs // A great friend making a difference

Entrepreneurs ‘give back’ with jobs

By David Holthaus • dholthaus@enquirer.com • November 8, 2009

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Two veterans of the household products industry have started a new company with plans to bring at least 250 jobs to one of Cincinnati’s most stressed neighborhoods.

Dan Meyer and Richard Palmer, who both have links to Procter & Gamble, started Nehemiah Manufacturing with the goal of creating jobs in Over-the-Rhine, a poor neighborhood with high unemployment.

Their venture was jumpstarted when they were awarded a license from P&G to market the consumer giant’s Kandoo brand. The line of hand soap, wipes and shampoo for kids posted $15 million in sales in 2008, too small for P&G, with $80 billion in annual sales, to pay much attention to. What’s more, the brand was in trouble, with sales sliding dramatically in the past year and capturing only a small fraction of its market, according to Information Resources Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.

But for a newfound company, stepping into $15 million in sales with the power of Procter & Gamble branding behind it, was a significant start. It also represents what Meyer and Palmer call their greater purpose of creating opportunities for those who haven’t had many.

“There’s a larger purpose for this company,” Meyer said. “Create jobs, create hope and give back to the community.”

The jobs will be unskilled – packaging, minor assembly of products and loading pallets for shipping. But they would help fill a need for work for the chronically unemployed, people who don’t show up on the monthly unemployment rolls because they can’t hold down jobs or have been out of work too long.

“There’s about 100,000 unskilled, entry-level people unemployed in this market,” said Dave Phillips, co-founder of Cincinnati Works, a non-profit employment training agency. “There is a significant labor force that’s able to work that is chronically unemployed.”

Nehemiah forecasts creating 250 to 500 jobs by 2011, with Over-the-Rhine the favored location. The partners have scouted the former Husman’s potato chip plant off McMicken Street and the old Moerlein Brewery building at Elm and McMicken, said Bill Fischer of the City of Cincinnati’s Department of Community Development.

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The firm can expect significant federal and local incentives by locating in Over-the-Rhine or another federal empowerment zone, possibly up to $30,000 to $50,000 per job, Fischer said.

Since Oct. 19, Nehemiah has been marketing and shipping Kandoo products to major retailers in North America from a warehouse in Pleasant Ridge that the partners rent on a short-term lease. The site and the P&G business give them a rolling start and a base from which to expand, as they plan to seek work from Kroger, further licensing deals from P&G and agreements to manufacture private-label products for retailers.

Meyer and Palmer both have experience in consumer products. Palmer is a P&G alumnus who worked on the company’s $9 billion Pampers brand and then started a consulting business.

Meyer started his career at P&G, then moved to Drackett Co., a Cincinnati-based company that was bought and then closed in the early ’90s. Meyer and others from Drackett started a company called Changing Paradigms that manufactured private-label products for Kroger and others. Alpharetta, Ga.-based OneCare bought Changing Paradigms, and the company worked with P&G to manufacture extensions of P&G brands such as Pampers, Downy and Dreft. The company operates a manufacturing plant in Ludlow that at its peak employed 500 people.

Meyer left OneCare earlier this year to start Nehemiah, a company he named after the Old Testament figure who rebuilt the city of Jerusalem.

For the last 4 years I’ve had the privilege of having breakfast with Rich Palmer once a week almost every week. To say that we are merely friends would be a huge understatement. Not only are we intentional about eating together but we also lead a Men’s Bible study together every week as well. We push each other to be better husbands, dads, friends, and even businessmen.

Needless to say, I’m really proud and excited for my friend. I can’t wait to see how this company grows and impacts the community. It’s refreshing to see companies who want to make a difference and give back in such a tangible way in an area of town that needs help.

So thank you Rich for being there for me but also thanks for having a vision that is much bigger than yourself. That’s awesome.

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