Attacking blighted properties, effectively using revolving loans and initiating a new community event at the lake were some of the economic development projects noted Thursday at an annual economic development summit sponsored by the Highland County Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Southern State Community College.
The lunchtime meeting was attended by municipal officeholders and business and civic leaders, many of whom are also Chamber board members. Kevin Boys, the president of SSCC who served as moderator for the meeting, said the goal was to share ideas and find common solutions to challenges faced by local leaders.
A handout at the session described one of the objectives as identifying “the partnership and strategic alliances that are effective in dealing with larger regional issues affecting economic development.”
Attendees included: Highland County Commissioners Shane Wilkin, Terry Britton and Jeff Duncan; Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings; Greenfield City Manager Ron Coffey; Leesburg Mayor Freddie Snyder; Nathan Brown, Farm Bureau; Dr. D.J. Jamieson, West Main Urgent Care; David Fauber, Weastec; Destiny Bryson, director of the Visitors Bureau of Highland County; Lu Ann Winkle, the Turning Point Applied Learning Center director who is serving as site coordinator for the Rocky Fork Lake economic development project; and Doug Moormann, vice president of Development Strategies Group, which is working on the lake project.
Melissa Elmore, executive director of the Chamber, and Maddie Cupp and Lori Hamilton from the Chamber office also attended.
The business and civic leaders in attendance heard updates from county and municipal leaders about economic development projects happening or planned for the future.
Hastings opened the meeting by describing Hillsboro’s focus on remediating blighted properties, saying that the city has been addressing the problem both by working directly with property owners as well as pursuing cases in the court system and obtaining receiverships. He said he preferred to work with property owners.
As he has done at city council meetings, Hastings also touted recently enacted state legislation creating downtown redevelopment districts, which he said is an economic development tool designed to enhance revenue and augment downtown infrastructure.
Hastings also reiterated the need for a new hotel in Hillsboro, something most attendees seemed to agree was needed. When asked whether visitors to his company stay in Hillsboro, one businessman replied, “No they don’t. They stay in Wilmington.”
Wilkin said that many business visitors stay at hotels at the Fields Ertel shopping area in the Cincinnati region because of the entertainment and dining choices.
Wilkin discussed a CDBG grant program that allowed the county to make loans to CMold and Corvac Composites in Greenfield, noting that CMold recently paid off its loan.
Wilkin said PAS Technologies has expanded from 80 to about 140 employees, and also described the county’s assistance with the PAS expansion, which utilized the county Community Improvement Corporation (CIC).
Wilkin also described the recent site certification of the Leesburg Industrial Park. He credited deputy commission clerk Nicole Oberrecht for her work on economic development progress achieved by the county.
Wilkin said the land bank that has been created as part of the Rocky Fork Lake economic development program will eventually be a valuable tool across the county once the obligation to tackle 16 blighted lake properties is fulfilled.
Wilkin said an announcement is coming May 12 about the Ohio Department of Natural Resources making an additional investment of state dollars at the lake for playgrounds and other items. He also described the upcoming barbecue contest coming to the lake in September, a project being pursued in coordination with Bryson at the visitors bureau, and which will feature additional activities such as canoe and kayak races.
Coffey shared information about the completion of the Greenfield rail spur project, which helped save nearly 1,000 jobs in the area.
He also discussed the importance of Corvac, as well as the village’s effort to enhance its industrial park, which he said was renamed the South Central Ohio Industrial Park. He said the goal is to get the park certified, and that job development is a top priority of village officials.
Coffey said Heritage Ohio recently visited Greenfield to look at the downtown district and determine “what we can do to revitalize it.”
He said officials are revisiting the village’s designation in the 1980s as a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA), determining whether the program can be modified to apply to the entire village.
The CRA designation is “an economic development tool administered by municipal and county government that provides real property tax exemptions for property owners who renovate existing or construct new buildings,” according to an Ohio Development Services Agency description.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at [email protected]