That’s right…I never thought I would start my own business. But here I am.
I was only 25 years old when I went to work at the uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, OH. As I grew up in southern Ohio, I had always heard horror stories about the toxic waste, green puddles in the parking lot and how if the plant blew up, all humans and vegetation within 60 miles of the place would be obliterated. After I went to work there, I found out pretty quickly that this was not true. Over the next few years, I would become part of a special family of people who worked hard every day and did their jobs safely and efficiently. I was proud to go to work every day and help communicate to employees, community officials and local residents about the great things that were happening at the plant and the importance that we played to the nuclear fuel cycle which was important to both our nation and to our world.
But that all changed on September 11, 2015. Fourteen years had passed since the fateful day when the terrorists crashed into the twin towers in New York City. It was just another day at the office — so I thought – except for the fact that we had been waiting to hear if the Department of Energy was going to fund our centrifuge plant for another year. For some reason, DOE officials had stopped talking to us sometime in August. On this particular day, we found out why.
You might remember that week. That was the same week that Congress approved the Iran nuclear deal which allowed Iran to continue operating more than 5,000 centrifuges. We only had 120 centrifuges in our cascade at Piketon. Per national security treaties, our American Centrifuge Plant was the only facility that could produce enriched uranium that could be used for national security purposes. But on September 11, 2015, President Obama, the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration pulled the plug on one of the greatest energy projects of all time.
I will never forget walking into the All-Hands meeting that day and looking into the eyes of my co-workers as our general manager delivered the grim news. I saw fear, confusion and sudden uncertainty. These wonderful co-workers of mine had done everything that the U.S. government had asked them to do, and it still wasn’t enough.
Some of them were hearing the news for the second time. In June 1985, the same centrifuge plant had been shut down by the Reagan administration to provide money for the Star Wars defense program after DOE had already spent $3 billion on its construction. Some of the most brilliant minds working for our program had been coaxed back for Round Two of the program in the early 2000’s and had been working for more than 10 years to try to make it successful for the second time. But that was not going to happen after the Obama Administration took over, despite the President’s letter of promise to the Ohio governor at the time that he would support the project. From the time that President Obama stepped foot into the White House, all of our lives and careers became one big yo-yo thanks to him and his administration’s lack of support for nuclear energy.
So our Ohio senators and congressmen and other allies fought back, and the funding to continue our project was even approved by Congress in omnibus legislation passed in December 2015. But the President and DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz still said no, and our wonderful team of bright minds and some of the hardest working people I ever knew would begin to scatter to the winds in the spring of 2016. A small remnant of them now remains to close the project down after many years of blood, sweat and tears. It is one of the saddest things I have ever had to witness during my years on this earth.
So, in April 2016, my wonderful job that I loved going to every day of my life was over. I thought I was going to retire from this job, but in my early 50’s, I found myself back out on the job market…a market that I quickly found out looks for people with 3-5 years of job experience, not those with almost 26.
But I was extremely blessed to find a wonderful job with Shawnee State University as the Coordinator of Workforce Development & Entrepreneurship where I use my communication skills every day to connect the university with our regional businesses and work to increase internship opportunities for our students. I am also working to promote entrepreneurship on campus as a mindset – a way of thinking. I want our students to learn to take charge of their own lives and to control their own destinies. In fact, I would like for our entire community to gain this mindset.
As part of my job at Shawnee State, and in my role on the Southern Ohio Port Authority, I hope to be part of a paradigm change in this community, something that I feel will be greatly supported by Shawnee’s new Innovation Accelerator which is set to open sometime over the next year. We need more jobs and more businesses in this community – and a new mindset — to help attack many of the social problems we currently have due to unemployment. We need to do what I had to do when I lost my job at the plant. We need to dust ourselves off, get back up and move forward to try to make our lives better and to help our community become a better place to live and work.
So, it is fitting that I am also an entrepreneur myself. Before I even left the plant that last day, I was getting calls from prospective clients who had a need for communications services. They weren’t your large corporations. They were small organizations with a lot of work to do and not a lot of people to do it. But they also needed to tell their stories, and they didn’t have enough money to hire full-time employees to help them to do that.
So, that’s where I come in – I started Joel Communication LLC to help our local businesses and organizations tell their stories. They don’t have the time to invest in using social media, advertising or marketing to promote themselves, so I’m here to help them do that so they will have more time to focus on their day-to-day operations. It’s a family business—I already helped my husband Del set up his own website to support the passion he has for writing his blog as well as inspirational books. I hope to be able to draw on his writing and creative talents as he is always great to look over my work and offer his creative insight. My son Eli is a finance major and will be helping me with the business side of things, and his talented girlfriend Kylee will graduate soon with a degree in public relations and marketing.
So where does the name “Joel” come from? That is my oldest son Gabe’s middle name. He’s part of the group that is still working for my former employer to help shut down the operations. “Joel” also means “Yahweh is God.” That is the goal of this business – all the glory goes to God, and only He can help me to make this business successful. He has blessed me with great family, health and talents to use for Him, and I thank Him every day for his blessings on me.
So yes, I still have my career at Shawnee State University that I am doing in addition to operating my own business. I also have a family, and I sing, play piano and direct youth music at Rubyville Community Church. I also do volunteer work with the Scioto County Right to Life. But my love for communication has inspired me to launch this new business as well, and I feel that God had to push me out of my comfort zone to make it happen. I appreciate all of the encouraging words from my husband, family and friends, and my former co-workers who are cheering me on. I even got a message from one of my high school friends the other night who was sending me some helpful suggestions for my new website. I appreciate all of your support, and I look forward to continued blessings from God and all that He has in store for me.