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Local developer builds buildings, relationships

Bob Mills to receive 2017 Citizen Legion of Honor award


Longtime developer Bob Mills says he has always found a way to buttress his commercial endeavors with philanthropic work.

While Mills’ companies — Mills Development and Synergy Building Systems — created a thriving commercial corridor in Beavercreek, Mills said he saw a need for a hospital and medical office building in the area, off what today is Pentagon Boulevard.

The result is Soin Medical Center.

Mills’ businesses have long worked with Dayton Children’s Hospital. That collaboration led to another of his key projects, the creation of Michael’s House, a Fairborn advocacy center for child victims of abuse and neglect.

More recently, Mills unlimbered his wallet for Children’s and the creation of a blood disorders center in that hospital’s newly opened patient tower.

He created that and an earlier patient play area after his granddaughter, Ally, ending up spending a total of more than 840 days at Dayton Children’s as she battled leukemia. (Today, Ally is 15 years old and doing well, Mills said.)

“I could see what they needed,” Mills said of the hospital.

That work has been noticed. The Presidents Club of Dayton recently named Mills its 2017 recipient of its Citizen Legion of Honor Award, given to what some call “servant leaders” — business and government leaders who strive to help others.

Parker — president and chief executive of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Presidents Club — called Mills “a great guy.”

“Bob … had been a long-term volunteer in the community, maybe 30 or more years,” Parker said. “Certainly he has given of his time. But he has also taken on some key projects that were personal to him.”

Parker invited Mills to lunch at the Dayton Racquet Club recently. When Mills saw that the entire President’s Club award committee was joining them, he knew what was up.

“I was pretty shocked,” he said. “I looked at the other honorees, going back to Virginia Kettering, some of the other people that I have respected over the years. I was really glad to add my name to that list.”

Past honorees include Judge Walter Rice, Clay and MaryAnn Mathile, Oscar Boonshoft, Brother Raymond Fitz, and more than 60 others, going back to the award’s first presentation in 1951.

Mills recognizes the company, but he doesn’t use the words “servant leaders.”

“I use ‘philanthropist’ more often,” he said.

Mills started his first company 39 years ago with $200, unsure of where he would get his next dollar. Today, his company is recognized for having created a Department of Defense-focused corridor off Interstate 675, with clients such as Kettering Health Network, Wright State University and the Department of Veterans Affairs on its roster.

In his fundraising work, Mills has three times raised $1 million in one evening, he said.

“That’s amazing,” Parker said.

If you ask his secret, Mills says it comes down to relationships.

“It’s because I have — in the old days, we would call them rolodexes — these are contacts I have established over the years,” he said. “Respect and friendship and loyalty that they give to me, it goes back to many things that I’ve done.”

Mills is chairman of his companies. He is preparing to hand the reins to his son-in-law, Jared Barnett, who is chief executive.

He has also quietly invested $15,000 to $1 million in many local start-ups, including those who have taken space in his buildings.

“It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing,” he said. “I’ve played a mentor and asked questions that most of them have never heard.”

Mills will receive the Citizen Legion of Honor award at the Presidents Club’s annual luncheon starting at 10 a.m. Oct. 5 at the Dayton Convention Center, at Main and Fifth streets in downtown Dayton.



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