Entrepreneur brings international experience to ToledoWritten by Autumn Lee | | firstname.lastname@example.org
by Beth Irwin
Special to Toledo Free Press
Armed with education and experience, David Bodner could have gone anywhere. He earned a graduate degree in international business from the University of South Carolina. He studied and worked in France. Ultimately, he returned to Toledo.
“It’s home. It’s a place I felt comfortable with,” he said.
At first, Bodner seemed destined to live in Europe. He traveled to France as a sophomore at St. Francis de Sales High School, then again during his junior year at the University of Dayton. After earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations, with a minor in economics and French, Bodner settled in Cincinnati and worked for Fidelity Investments for four years until he was ready for a new challenge. He relocated to South Carolina and began a Master’s in International Business. Part of the program included working abroad, and again, he returned to France. For a year, Bodner worked for Rhone-Poulenc as an internal auditor.
“I got to travel to their offices in other countries, but I was kind of the ‘bad guy,’ ” he said. “Being an auditor, they didn’t like to see me coming. It was a great experience, but it taught me that I really didn’t want to go into auditing. The work itself wasn’t too stimulating for me.”
The time overseas, he said, was a great learning experience.
“Any time you’re out of your normal comfort zone, not knowing how other people are going to react … it challenges you to do what you have to do to get things done,” he said.
Bodner earned his graduate degree and had anticipated moving back to Europe, but instead looked in his hometown for a job. He found one with Owens Corning.
“Looking back, it was one of the things that drew me back here and that’s certainly an asset for Toledo,” he said, “but along the way I had discovered a lot of things personally and professionally and that’s what kept me in Toledo. It’s a great community.”
For two years he worked in inside sales and customer service, primarily with the company’s Canadian division. Then he decided he would rather work for himself than for a large company.
Bodner returned to the financial world, this time as a financial planner at Seymour and Associates in Maumee, where he has been since 1998.
He counts the Toledo Museum of Art and the Toledo Lucas County Public Library system among the region’s assets, as well as “being at the doorstep of the Great Lakes.” A lower cost of living than many other cities and a lack of traffic are other advantages.
“You can get anywhere in this town in 20 to 30 minutes,” he said. “You can sit in traffic for 20 to 30 minutes in a lot of bigger cities.”
Bodner acknowledges there are things that could change for the better. One thing he would like to see is more support for Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.
“He’s vocal and yes, he does make mistakes, but the important thing is he’s trying to make changes.” Bodner said, “I think so many people focus on the negatives and not on his initiatives, and we need to recognize that he is trying to initiate change.”
Bodner said Toledo’s manufacturing-based economy will need to adapt to grow. The question, he said, is whether businesses will simply react to change, or will try proactively to blaze new trails.
“I don’t think we should give up manufacturing because it’s always going to be a part of the area,” he said, “but at the same time, a lot of manufacturing is going overseas. You can’t fight all of that. You can fight some of it, but I think you almost have to reinvent yourself, and focus on your strengths.”
For 10 years, Bodner has served on the Board of Action for the Women’s Entrepreneurial Network (WEN), an organization dedicated to encouraging and supporting businesswomen and women-friendly businesses. Bodner said he believes entrepreneurs and small businesses are an “underappreciated fact” in Toledo.
“There are a lot of people trying to do their own thing and more power to them, because I think that’s going to be a model for the future,” he said.
Linda Fayerweather, co-director of WEN, said she agrees entrepreneurship could be the “saving grace” for Toledo.
“The community needs to remember that Google started with just two guys and an idea,” she said, adding that more programs like Junior Achievement that educate young people about entrepreneurship would encourage the growth of the small business community.
Bodner said he believes many people are resistant to change, but change can also be an opportunity.
“Toledo has a lot of things going for it, but we can’t stop advancing; we can’t be set in our ways,” he said.