Drew Bracken | Newark Advocate

BUCKEYE LAKE – Mike Fornataro joined Buckeye Lake 2030 as executive director in April 2017 and became executive director of the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation upon its inception Sept. 19, 2017.

As the only paid employee of the corporation, he puts on informational presentations for groups of all sizes and arranges the details of the board and community meetings.

“I act as a conduit of information back to the board of directors,” he explained. “I attend most of the BLRC individual committee meetings and I communicate with Buckeye Lake Region stakeholders and government officials about issues that affect the region.”

Fornataro does it, he said, because, “I love this region and I know that fractured governance has long hindered it. The Buckeye Lake Region Corporation addresses that. I believe what I am doing makes a difference. Not just today, but long-term.”

Fornataro, now 58, grew up in Licking County and graduated from Newark High School.

“When I was in junior high school,” he recalled, “my parents purchased a cottage on Honey Creek and I spent my summers on Buckeye Lake. While I was in high school they purchased a waterfront home on the northeastern shore. I spent all the time I could on or near the lake. It was a fantastic place to grow up.”

After attending OSU, he worked in the newspaper industry for 15 years in advertising and management. At the same time, he was a syndicated automotive journalist. He spent 17 years full-time in the sport of drag racing, 15 of those with the National Hot Rod Association, and most recently as general manager of National Trail Raceway.

“These were complicated jobs with many moving parts,” he said. “I believe these professions prepared me well for what I now do.”

“I’ve been a trustee on the Buckeye Lake Region Chamber of Commerce for many years,” he continued, “and I’m the founder and chair of Buckeye Lake Winterfest. I also serve on the board of Explore Licking County – this year as board chair.”

“I’ve spent years volunteering for the benefit of the Buckeye Lake Region,” he concluded. “I love the lake.”

Seriously …
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?

A. Meeting people from all over the Buckeye Lake Region and bringing them together, creating alliances to advance the Region.

Q. What are you most proud of about your career?

A. What I do is for the greater good of the Buckeye Lake Region. That makes me very proud.

Q. What has been the biggest challenge in leading Buckeye Lake Region Corporation?

A. Communicating what the BLRC is and what it isn’t.

Q. What would you like people to know about Buckeye Lake Region Corporation they may not know?

A. We are the first organization that has representation from every area of the Buckeye Lake region, elected officials from Perry, Fairfield and Licking Counties, along with villages, townships, civic associations and “at large” members. BLRC is not digging footers and pounding nails. We are not developers. Growth is coming to the Buckeye Lake Region, that is inevitable. Our goal is to help guide it based on the Vision of the Community. We have something pretty special right here in the middle of Ohio. By guiding the growth, we will have something even more special. But to be unprepared for the coming growth will result in the Buckeye Lake Region just “getting what it gets.” Just like always. BLRC is also pushing water quality initiatives and other basic infrastructure and tourism-based goals.

Q. How has Buckeye Lake Region Corporation changed through the years?

A. We have been in existence only since Sept. 19, 2017. The BLRC is the child of Buckeye Lake 2030, an all-volunteer alliance of some 300 Region stakeholders first organized in January 2016. BL 2030 stakeholders identified the assets and liabilities of the Region and created the Community Vision. BLRC exists to help implement that Community Vision.

On the lighter side …
Q. What is your favorite movie?

A. Pulp Fiction

Q. What is your favorite TV show?

A. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unkown

Q. What’s your favorite type of music?

A. Caribbean-influenced music and Sinatra-era standards

Q. What is your favorite book?

A. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

Q. What is your favorite sport or activity to participate in?

A. Motorsports / Boating

Q. What is favorite sport to watch?

A. College Football

Q. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

A. Time Travel

Q. What is your favorite meal?

A. Lobster is always a treat.

Q. Who is the person you most admire in your life?

A. Ann, my wife.

Q. Who is a public figure you most admire?

A. George Washington. The United States existed only as a concept and a piece of paper that defined the common beliefs of the people. Washington fought for those beliefs for the benefit of all. It’s remarkable to me that, against overwhelming odds, Washington became the linchpin of the greatest country the world has ever known.

Q. What’s your dream vacation?

A. Italy – with a stop in my ancestral hometown of Colliano.

Q. If you could be in any other job or profession, what would it be?

A. Jay Leno’s Toy Box Manager