ASHLAND -- Two Ashland men have partnered with Ashland Main Street and local businesses to introduce an app meant to serve as a single, go-to source for local news, entertainment and information on Ashland County restaurants, retail and services.
The founders of a local information technology (IT) business called FiveForge, Josh Hildebrand and Kyle McFarlin launched Ashland Life Monday, March 23 -- sooner than expected as they saw an immediate need for a consolidated communication platform in their community.
"This was a long-term project that we accelerated when we saw everything happening. There have been lots of questions coming in," Hildebrand said, referencing what he's seen on social media and heard from local business owners since coronavirus (COVID-19) made its Ohio debut.
Since the disease arrived, Gov. Mike DeWine has called the crisis in Ohio "wide-spread" and likened it to a war. As of Monday, March 23, the state reported 442 confirmed cases and six deaths. Only one case has been confirmed in Ashland.
Hildebrand saw his community react. He noticed how the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce launched Ashlanddining.com and saw the creation of a Facebook group called Ashland Ohio Community Support for COVID-19. He also recognized the efforts from local news outlets, including Ashland Source and Ashland Times-Gazette.
"I wanted to bring this information together to be something sustainable, a single source of truth," Hildebrand said.
The app lists the hours, address and contact information for Ashland County retailers and services and also how to order from area restaurants.
The set up will allow business owners to update their own information and be continually updated with the help of users who can "report an issue" through the "Contact Us" tab.
Hildebrand hopes the app allows Facebook groups, pages and news outlets to focus on what's "extremely important," and will alleviate the calls businesses may be receiving with questions about hours and whether or not they remain open.
"I want it to improve communications. People shouldn't have to ask about hours," Hildebrand said.
The app is intended for anyone who lives or conducts business in Ashland County and will remain as a local resource after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
The app is currently accessible by visiting app.ashland.life. It is a web app, meaning users can navigate to the app by entering the URL into their internet browser (Safari, Google, etc.). The app then prompts users to pin the app to their bookmarks so they can easily view it again later.