By MORGAN MANNS
The Fostoria Learning Center has a new leader at the helm.
Tracey Lawton, of Findlay, was appointed the center’s new director and began her duties Jan. 2.
“The (Fostoria Learning Center) Board of Trustees are excited to have Tracey leading the organization and we look forward to working with her in carrying out the mission of the Learning Center,” said Cyndi Geroski, board chairman and former interim director.
“We believe with her unique and diversified background, Ms. Lawton will be a tremendous asset to the Learning Center and the overall community,” added Renee Smith, president of the Fostoria Economic Development Corporation.
Born and raised in England, Lawton has a degree in business studies and spent many years with Birmingham City Council, UK, as an office manager working for both the Education and Chief Executive’s Departments.
Prior to her employment with the learning center, she ran her own online business management and marketing business for 16 years. She created and delivered online training programs such as webinars, teaching other business owners business management and marketing systems remotely. She supported both national and international clients from her home office in Findlay.
She began the business in 2001 while she was living in England.
“I wanted to be around for my children who were young at the time and this gave me a flexible schedule,” she said, explaining her husband works for Grob Systems, Inc., a machine tool company headquartered in Germany.
Her family had the options of moving to Findlay or Bluffton nearly 16 years ago when the company decided to send her husband to the Bluffton-based facility for two years.
“Two (years) turned into three, and three years became permanent,” Lawton said, noting two of her boys are now in college while the youngest is in middle school. “It was time for me to get out of my little home and get back into the world.”
She also served as a substitute teacher for Findlay City Schools for a short time before this opportunity with the learning center presented itself.
“I am thrilled to be leading the Fostoria Learning Center to succeed in its mission of fostering a vibrant community of lifelong learners and I look forward to working with the citizens, industry leaders and educators of Fostoria,” Lawton said.
The Fostoria Learning Center, 342 Perry St., opened its doors to students for the first time Aug. 23, 2017.
The learning center has come a long way since its humble beginnings as an idea floating around the Fostoria Economic Development Corporation office. It was conceived by an educational subcommittee put together through FEDC, which commissioned a feasibility study addressing the workforce needs of local companies.
In July 2014, the FLC became a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, which has allowed the board of directors to seek funding to develop future programs — including an $800,000 State Capital Fund grant received last spring.
Construction officially began Nov. 3, 2016, and it didn’t take long for the former Kroger store to transform into the contemporary facility it is today.
FLC has partnered with entities such as Terra State Community College, WSOS Ready to Work, Marion Technical College, Associated Builders and Contractors, Vanguard-Sentinel Career Center and Ohio Means Jobs Seneca County.
As director of the FLC, Lawton said her main goals are to create a marketing plan while also looking at other types of programming for educational courses as well as community programs, such as a stitching class, gardening tutorial or robotics course for kids in the summer.
“The learning center is Fostoria’s best kept secret,” she said. “I would very much like to see the community use it and see it as a resource.”
She stressed the point that the learning center is a community space where community members can come to tour and ask her questions anytime from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“I will happily take anyone around and show them what we have to offer. You don’t need an appointment,” she said. “I don’t want people to feel intimidated by the fact that it’s a learning center, because it’s all kinds of levels of learning, right from kids to adults.”
More information about the Fostoria Learning Center can be found on their website at www.FostoriaLearningCenter.org.