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Congressman Wenstrup visits OCI

The Pike County News Watchman

On Friday, U.S. Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-2nd District-OH) paid a visit to OCI (Oak Chips, Inc.) in Waverly to tour the facility and meet with the owners.

Started in Pike County by Ben Nathan in 1975, the business specializes in the production of toasted oak chips and alternatives and serves customers around the globe.

“What we do is we make barrel staves for whiskey and wine barrels,” explained Todd Nathan, OCI president, in an interview with the News Watchman prior to the Congressman’s arrival. “We also make an alternative to a barrel that flavors wine, and those are toasted oak chips.”

Since opening the stave mill at the site three years ago, the business has grown from 12 original employees to about 70 employees. Nathan indicated that the business would like to expand by adding more toasters in the back and also add a couple more stave mill lines if possible, and he said that hopefully expansion will result in the hiring of about 25 more employees.

“It’s mainly American oak that we use,” he said and mentioned that the American oak used is harvested within about a 100-mile radius of the area.

OCI’s work also results in support for other industries, such as logging, mechanics, trucking, and propane.

“We use around 50,000 gallons of propane a year,” Nathan stated.

“There’s a lot of residual money that goes out,” he added.

He said that last year OCI exported about 200 containers of products overseas to destinations such as Spain, Italy, France, South America, etc.

Wenstrup indicated that visiting small businesses is one of the positives about his job as well as sometimes a hard part of the job “because you want to go around and see how people are doing and how people are making it and what your opportunities are and how you came to be but also what may be getting in your way.”

“If you don’t go out and talk to people and get the feedback — Washington is a little hornets’ nest and its own little entity,” stated Wenstrup, who is a medical doctor and a veteran of the Iraq War.

Wenstrup added that he has problems with “people serving in Washington who never did anything else but politics” and who don’t know what it’s like to run a business or do other things.

“If you’re up there (in Washington), and that’s your whole world, it doesn’t give you a true picture of what’s going on in America,” he said.

Todd Nathan mentioned that the government has a lot of rules and regulations that make it “tough for the small businessman”. Wenstrup mentioned that in his medical practice he saw more and more regulations with which he had to comply as the years went by.

“And that’s why you see doctors running for office today,” Wenstrup stated. “Because it’s like, ‘Hey, you’ve taken the joy out of taking care of people because you’re bogging us down with government requirements, data reporting, that has nothing to do with the interaction between you and your patient.’ And so, it’s similar types of things that we’re seeing in all kinds of businesses today.”

“I find that the biggest burden people have today is the fact that our oversight agencies have rule of law,” he continued, adding that the people’s representation has been taken out of Congress by putting it in agencies that make mandates, “and then we (Congress) try to write a law to stop them”.

“I talk to government classes. That’s not what they’re reading in their books. That’s not how it’s supposed to be, but it’s how it’s transpired over the years,” Wenstrup stated.

After meeting with the OCI owners and family members and touring the facility, Wenstrup took time for photos with OCI employees before departing.

Click here to read the original article in The Pike County News Watchman.