A large institution with a local feel

A large institution with a local feel

 

“Like many natural gas companies,” Richard Hallett said, “we went through quite an evolution over the course of one hundred years, particularly in our geographical area of northwest Ohio.”

A large institution with a local feel

“Like many natural gas companies,” Richard Hallett said, “we went through quite an evolution over the course of one hundred years, particularly in our geographical area of northwest Ohio.”

Hallett is president of the Ohio Gas Co. He’ll celebrate his 49th year at the Bryan, Ohio-based business in 2016, so he’s seen about half of this evolution firsthand.1

Ohio Gas Co.’s origins trace back to the Napoleon & Wauseon Gas Co. and the Bryan & Montpelier Gas Co., both formed in 1912 and merged as the Ohio Gas Light & Coke Co. on May 14, 1914.2 As the name suggests, the company initially manufactured and distributed gas derived from a coal gasification method — an environmentally unfriendly process that yielded coke, which could be sold to nearby steel mills. Distribution lines slowly extended into rural communities, with all pipes installed through painstaking hand labor.

Although distribution was difficult, remote towns and villages benefited from energy’s delivery; light and heat made life easier.

The company’s coal-based process continued through the 1930s, when an interstate natural gas pipeline stemming from Texas and Oklahoma made its way to Ohio, aiming to bring cleaner fuels to Detroit’s booming automotive market.

“We were fortunate enough to be located here in northwest Ohio and the pipeline went right through our service area,” Hallett said. “In 1939, we were able to tap in and start utilizing natural gas.”

That use hastened the company’s name change to Ohio Gas Co. in 1946.3

Ohio Gas’ early bank partnerships go back to First National Bank of Bowling Green, which became Mid American National Bank & Trust in 1973 and later Sky Bank.4 In 2000, Huntington came into the picture. At the time, Ohio Gas was using many smaller, local banks, but Huntington changed that.

“(When) Huntington came on the scene … it forced us into making a decision to consolidate all of our banking with one institution if we could find the right fit,” Hallett said. “And Huntington really provided that fit for us.”5

Huntington’s technical capabilities enabled this fit, Hallett said; the bank was poised to adapt.

“(Huntington was) ahead of most other institutions in our particular area in being able to accommodate the new technology that’s come on,” he said.

The utility industry’s growing complexity has included many periods of mergers and acquisitions and many layers of programs.

“(Changes included) Ohio Gas’ zero balance account services, our sweep account that we have, our (automated clearing house) services, the fraud protection, online information reporting, all of our wires, cash transfers, daily balances, bank reports, monthly statements, on and on and on,” he said. “We’ve just got a multitude of areas and Huntington has been able to accommodate our needs.”6

Huntington’s technical services are only part of the story, however. Even more important is what Hallett called “the local relationship.”

When larger banking institutions bought smaller banks in the area, the atmosphere of the acquired banks changed, he said, and not for the better.

“The larger institutions frankly have lost the local feel, the family atmosphere,” he said.

Ohio Gas’ customer base includes large industrial companies including Spangler Candy Co. in Bryan and Campbell Soup Co. in Napoleon. But the company’s bread and butter remains residential and commercial customers in six rural counties of northwest Ohio, extending from Toledo’s western limits to the Indiana state line.

“These folks up our way are very loyal,” Hallett says. “If a financial institution gives them good service, by golly, they’re going to continue to allow that institution to service their financial needs. … We’ve tried to maintain a family atmosphere. And I think that parallels Huntington in a lot of respects.”

Huntington and Ohio Gas share a focus on making life easier for customers, Hallett said.

“If there was anything at all that (Huntington) could do to make life easier for us, they were going to do it.”

The relationship is managed by Huntington’s Adam Freels, whom Hallett sees often. Hallett appreciates that Freels is active in the local Rotary Club, as is local Huntington branch manager Steve Collins.

“Of course Huntington is a large banking organization,” Hallett said, “but nonetheless they really have taken a very active part in being good community neighbors.

“I just can’t say enough about the relationship that we’ve had with Huntington,” he added. “We look for that relationship to continue for many years.”

Ohio Gas celebrated its centennial in 2014, honoring more than 50,000 loyal customers. It honors Huntington with its loyalty every day.

Copy of Ohio Gas Company - Building Photo 1

Ohio Gas Company’s building.  Photo Credit: Ohio Gas Company

 

Copy of Ohio Gas Company - Hallett & Freels Photo 3

Ohio Gas President Richard Hallett and Huntington colleague Adam Freels celebrate Ohio Gas Company’s 100th anniversary. Photo Credit: Ohio Gas Company