Third-generation bowling center operator named Ohio’s ‘Small Business Champion’

Joe Poelking, who runs the Poelking Lanes businesses in Dayton, Kettering and by the Dayton Mall, was honored by the NFIB

A local man whose family started a small business more than 70 years ago and expanded it to include three different locations, is the 2023 Small Business Champion for Ohio.

Joe Poelking was selected for the honor by the Ohio chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization. He operates three Dayton-area bowling centers: Poelking on Wilmington in Dayton, Poelking Woodman Lanes in Kettering, and Poelking Lanes South in Miami Twp.

The businesses employ between 90 and 95 people, said Poelking, who lives in Springboro.

Poelking Lanes South became an NFIB member business in 2008. Since 2013, Poelking has served on the NFIB Ohio Leadership Council, a 37-member panel that advises NFIB State Director Chris Ferruso on issues facing the state’s small businesses.

Poelking got his start in the bowling business at 9 years old at Poelking on Wilmington, which his grandfather opened in 1951. Poelking’s father and his three brothers took over the business in the early 1960s and Poelking, who started full-time in 1983, began running it with a cousin before taking over as sole operator in the late 1990s.

Poelking, who didn’t realize he was an award winner until he saw his face on a printed page at NFIB Ohio Small Business Day at the Capitol, said winning the award was “a very surprising thing” to him.

“I’ve been very supportive of NFIB,” he said. “I promote it within my my bowling industry. I tell my bowling proprietors what an advantage it is to be a member.”

NFIB, he said, gives business owners the opportunity to collectively network with other small businesses and to network with Ohio legislators and be kept up to date on what’s going on.

“They will sit there and give us this information that so we can get a better understanding of what it is,” he said, noting it also helps to have legislators get to know small business owners and their challenges and concerns.

Ferruso said Poelking is “a tireless advocate for small businesses.”

“His businesses have sponsored NFIB’s Small Business Day at the Capitol, the NFIB Legislative Reception, and other events,” he said. “He’s a generous donor to the NFIB Ohio PAC, and he’s encouraged others to support the candidates who will support Ohio’s small businesses.”

NFIB presents the Small Business Champion award annually to one of its Ohio members who has given not only their time and resources to the organization but who demonstrates the spirit of service toward the community and a commitment to advancing the concept of free enterprise.

“Joe is a strong advocate for small business, and he’s built strong relationships with his state legislators and other officials,” Ferruso said. “When he reaches out to them about sensible regulations, tax relief, and other key issues, they listen.”

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