John B. Marek is an award-winning author and speaker, suburban homesteader and professional economic developer who specializes in community branding and business retention, expansion and attraction for rural and micropolitan areas. He has published four books and written articles for local, regional and national publications including Porch Dog Journal and N.C. Outdoors on subjects ranging from tax incentives and the workforce skills gap to rural entrepreneurship and outdoor recreation.
Based in Huntersville, North Carolina and working on projects around the state – he is currently helping build an economic development program in Anson County – John has been recognized for both his achievements on behalf of rural communities and his writing. Statesville Regional Development, where he served as Director of Business Retention and Expansion from 2007 to 2016, was twice named to Site Selection magazine's list of the 10 Best Economic Development Organizations in the country during his tenure, and in 2016 he won the prestigious ACWC Award for Best Short Fiction.
Growing up on the Lake Erie coast of north central Ohio, John preferred pocket knives to trading cards and the choppy waters of the Sandusky Bay to the concrete of the playground. Fishing and growing things were early fascinations, his formative years spent casting for bullhead and perch and working the family garden with his father, Bennie.
Opportunity eventually called him south to the Carolinas where he now pursues his passions for fishing, gardening, hiking and kayaking with his wife Janet, a certified public accountant who claims to not really like the fishing part, but routinely lands the bigger fish. They have a dog, Laika, a terrier mix they adopted in 2012, who helps out around the homestead and often sits in the big leather chair in the study, keeping John company while he writes.
John holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Bowling Green State University and attended the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. Besides writing and economic development, past work includes marketing consulting, industrial sales and retail management.
In addition to writing more than one hundred articles (several are linked here), his non-fiction work includes two business-related books, Secrets of Neighborhood Marketing (2004) and Breakfast at Midway (2007), and his latest book (2018) Ben and the Art of Lawnmower Maintenance.
Published in 2017, John's first book of fiction, The Bug Jar and Other Stories, collects short stories he wrote over a 20 year period from 1995 to 2015. The opening story, "Bandito," won the 2016 ACWC Award for Best Short Fiction, and another story from the collection, "A Hard and Threatening Place," was an ACWC nominee in 2017.
John and Janet established their suburban homestead on a half-acre lot in the Wynfield Creek neighborhood in 1995, and strive for a simple, authentic life. In 2014, John became a certified Square Foot Gardening instructor and frequently offers talks and demonstrations on the subject. At the homestead, he maintains a potager (kitchen garden) of Square Foot beds which produce bountiful crops of lettuce, carrots, beans, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, spinach, radishes and kale. In the future, the Mareks also plan a larger market garden on a leased plot near the homestead and hope to offer "heirloom produce from our garden to your table" at local farmers' markets.
John currently divides his time between the Wynfield Creek Homestead and his economic development practice in Anson County. Although he has no plans to "retire," he would ultimately like to take on an advisory role in rural development and devote more time to writing and market gardening. Until that happens, he will continue to share his life outdoors from backroad convenience stores, covered foot bridges, swaying hammocks and the driver's seat of his vintage Jeep Wrangler, wherever it may take him.