Springfield businessman who led big economic development efforts dies

Jim Foreman, a self-made man who rose to be one of the leaders driving economic development in Springfield and championing charitable causes big and small, has died.

Foreman, 76, died Tuesday at Springfield Regional Medical Center.

He was the longtime owner of a downtown car dealership, finally selling Jim Foreman Buick, GMC, Cadillac in 2015. Foreman also served on the Chamber of Greater Springfield board for several years, including as chairman, and was one of the key leaders behind keeping the Navistar plant in Clark County, the development of the Prime Ohio Corporate Park and the downtown Clark State Performing Arts Center.

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“Anything that had to do with positive growth in this community, he was involved in … He was part of the group that just had a huge and lasting impact on the community,” said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and Foreman’s nephew.

Prime Ohio is a 500-acre industrial park located near I-70 and Ohio 41 that now at least 15 businesses with more than 1,000 jobs with firms like Dole, Aldi, Konecranes and Gordon Food Services, according to the city of Springfield.

He also lead the Springfield Port Authority in recent years, which provided significant seed money for the Global Impact STEM Academy, said Ed Leventhal, a member of the academy’s board.

“We might not have had the school today without that,” Leventhal said.

Foreman was also devoted to the Clark County Fair and brought in other businesses to support it. One of his son Pete Foreman’s favorite memories of him happened at the fair one year when his sister was showing a steer.

Jim Foreman had just come from work, wearing a suit and tie, and was trying to get the animal off a trailer.

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“The steer took off and dragged my dad through manure and everything at the fair,” Pete Foreman said. “And then he stood up, and dusting himself off said, ‘Well, fellas, I got to go back to work.’ And he had manure and dirt from head to toe.”

The businessman was the ultimate salesman who started off selling tires before eventually rising to purchase the dealership in 1970, said longtime friend Pete Hackett, a retired partner at Clark Schaefer Hackett accounting firm. Jim Foreman served on both the National and Ohio Automobile Dealers Associations.

“He was a self-proclaimed individual and he did it his own way,” Hackett said. “He lived his life the way he wanted to, no one was going to change that.”

Jim Foreman was known for a no-nonsense, direct approach, Franzen said, and had a reputation for getting things done. He had a good sense of humor, his nephew said, but when it came to a project or committee, he wanted quick action and decisions.

“There’s no one word to describe him, just a tremendous presence who dominated a room when he came in,” Franzen said.

Jim Foreman also was passionate about giving back to the community that helped him, his son said. He supported everything from local ball teams to Catholic Central to St. Raphael Catholic Church to the United Way and St. Vincent de Paul.

“He had a big heart for everybody that he met,” Franzen said. “There was no cause too small for him.”

He was also dedicated to his family, Hackett said, including his longtime wife Joan Foreman, who died in 2014. Hackett’s wife visited Joan Foreman when she was in a nursing home, and commented on how nicely her nails were manicured and asked her how she had gotten them done.

“Her nails were done to the nines and she said, ‘Jimmy did them.’ That’s a real love story,” Hackett said.

Survivors include a special companion, Carolyn Causlin; three children and spouses, Susie (Rodger) Burk, Kathleen (Steve) Rountree and Pete (Amy) Foreman; daughter-in-law, Stephanie (Greg) Foreman-Jones; eight grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and several siblings and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife and son Daniel.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Conroy Funeral Home. A funeral Mass will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Raphael.

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