Business growth, anti-drug progress 2016 goals

As local residents prepare to bid ado to 2015 and welcome the rising hope that comes with a new year, local government and business officials weighed in Tuesday with their thoughts for the coming year.

Joe Mahan, president of the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association (HUBA), hopes for the continued success of events for the community, like the annual Boo-fest, HUBA Christmas Parade, and First Friday events.

And he said he is hopeful for bigger and better events to get people uptown in the coming year.

“We just want the organization to be able to continue to provide those events … that help people discover and rediscover uptown Hillsboro.”

Hillsboro City Council President Lee Koogler said he would like to see Hillsboro continue to progress.

He said on behalf of council that something everyone is looking forward to are paving projects that are in the works, and for the city to continue to improve upon infrastructure that makes Hillsboro “enticing” to people and businesses as a place to relocate.

The continued growth of PAS Technologies is something the council president also looks forward to, he said.

Koogler said he hopes that council continues to try to serve “the citizens we are here to serve in the positions we are entrusted with as elected officials.”

About 20 miles up the road, Greenfield City Manager Ron Coffey said he is particularly looking forward to new businesses in town.

He said Corvac Composites “getting up and running” very soon and the company’s potential for growth is “certainly something to look forward to.”

It’s been previously reported that new production at the facility on the corner of North Washington Street and SR 41 is slated for early 2016, and that the company anticipates hiring around 200 employees over a three-year period.

Coffey also looks forward to the completion of the “long-running” railroad rehabilitation project of Greenfield’s 29-mile rail spur. It’s a project that was years in the making and met one obstacle after another until construction finally began on the multi-million dollar improvement project in early summer.

Coffey said that while the village is “still trying to address other issues,” officials hope for “continued business development” and continued investment in established businesses as seen in 2015.

“I look forward to seeing Greenfield continue to progress,” Coffey said. “We’ve got a lot of great history, colorful characters, and things to celebrate.”

Melissa Elmore, president of the Highland County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is “excited” about new business coming to Highland County with Corvac Composites and with Candle-lite’s expansion.

She said the completion of Greenfield’s railroad project “is huge,” adding that the rail spur improvements are “such a positive thing” for the area.

Elmore, who is part of the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Plan (RFL-ASAP), said positive things have come from that steering committee. It was made possible by a $100,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Byrnes Criminal Justice Innovation Program designed to facilitate the development of a strategic plan to reduce crime at Rocky Fork Lake.

Elmore said that the committee has spent the last couple of months working out the details of an implementation plan so that the county can move to the next step of applying for a grant to fund the fixes.

The chamber is also looking forward to bringing in John Phipps as the featured speaker at January’s Ag is Everyone’s Business, an annual event that recognizes the agriculture industry in the community and beyond.

GROW! Highland County, Elmore said, has had a “rewarding” year with successful businesses resulting from the efforts of the organization that helps those wanting to start a business, or expand an existing business, by focusing on product, finance, and marketing. And, she said, there are several businesses “in the pipeline” for 2016.

Highland County Board of Commissioners President Shane Wilkin echoed Coffey’s thoughts on economic development, saying commissioners “look forward to Corvac getting up and running.”

And the auto-industry supplier is something that is not just beneficial to Greenfield and Highland County, but to the entire region, Wilkin said.

He said Candle-lite’s expansion is “another good win for 2015” and that he looks forward to how that comes together in the new year.

The expansion announced in November will be a nearly $12 million investment that will add new production equipment, make leasehold improvements at the facility, and include 50 new full-time jobs at the operation over the next three years.

Wilkin also said commissioners are looking forward to the economic growth and potential jobs that could result from current projects the county is working on, and “projects we are confident we will get a shot at bringing to Highland County.”

This year “has been a very successful year,” Wilkin said. “We look forward to building on that momentum in 2016.”

Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss said he hopes the court would continue in 2016 to operate in what he considers an efficient and fair manner.

He hopes to see “a sign of progress in the fight against drug addiction,” the judge said. “We see individual successes, but the tide still seems to be against us. I just hope we can get to a point where we can see the tide turning.”

A key to that, Coss said, are treatment options in the local community.

A lot of progress has been made in understanding addiction and what it takes to help a person beat it, he said, but “there’s still a lot of effort that needs to be made.” Coss said it will require communities to be committed to supporting local programs, adding that treatment locally is the “most successful.”

The judge said that halfway houses and sober living houses being a part of local communities could make all the difference. “I’m hoping that will happen” in the new year, Coss said.

Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins said she agreed with Coss “one thousand percent.”

And any headway made against addiction, she said, would be “all-encompassing for the county” as it would mean fewer children in foster care and less money paid out by the county to support those astronomical costs. That headway would also assist in the reduction of other drug-related offenses, she said, like property crime.

“That’s what I would like to see us do,” she said.

As to her office, she said she is pleased with how it interacts with other offices.

“I would like to keep that up, keep building on that for the benefit of the county and the residents we are lucky enough to serve,” she said.

Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said he would like to continue with practices that have proven beneficial.

Barrera said one of those is continuing “to build camaraderie within the ranks of the sheriff’s office so that we can continue to protect and serve the citizens of Highland County” and continue to fight the war on drugs.

He said the office will stay current with the changing trends in an effort to “keep officers safe, well trained, and well equipped.” The sheriff said he would also continue to “conservatively manage the budget” which he said benefits everyone.

Barrera said his office in the new year would also continue “to be active through community involvement while building strong relationships with communities, community leaders, and other law enforcement agencies.”

Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.


Local leaders weigh in on what’s ahead

By Angela Shepherd