Jodie Perry, CEO of Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development, says 2022 was a busy year and a strong year for economic development in the county. Perry also told Richland County commissioners Tuesday there was a lot of work done that was not “captured in the numbers” including site development and relationship building in the workforce development area that were important steps forward.
According to the annual report, chamber economic efforts closed out nine projects that created 353 new jobs, $14.17 million in new payroll and $58.5 million in capital expenses for the local economy. The resulting economic output, according to a computerized analysis, showed a $105 million impact on the economy including $85 million in direct impact, $12 million in indirect impact and $8 million in induced impact from community spending.
“The commissioners have invested $100,000 (of county funds) in economic development and you got a 1,000-times return,” said Barrett Thomas, chamber director of economic development.
Commissioner Tony Vero said he was curious if chamber officials have any way to measure the net gain in jobs because he has heard about local companies that are “down 30, 40, 50 jobs” or are not filling vacancies. Officials said those figures are provided by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which periodically releases reports on total employment.
People’s jobs are changing
“The jobs people have are changing,” Thomas said. “We’re getting fewer low-skilled jobs, automating more stuff and getting more high-skilled jobs of people (to) maintain those machines and equipment.”
Thomas told the board that many of the 2022 development efforts involved what he called “near source” projects that took advantage of supply chain opportunities created by the COVID pandemic to bring work from China back to the U.S. and parts sources closer assembly operations.
As an example, he pointed to a project where Ohio Valley Stamping received funds to help renovate a local building that had been on the market “a while” and bring work from Pennsylvania back to Mansfield.
Other 2022 projects highlighted in the report included Timberlane Finish Solutions and Michael Byrne Manufacturing.
Thomas also said that Richland County had more Jobs Ohio inclusion grants — which target women, minorities, veteran owners, and businesses in distressed Zip Codes — than any other county in the 18-county northeast Ohio region except for Cuyahoga County. Site Ohio evaluated the three best potential development sites and helped make a plan to attract new businesses.
Marketing efforts expanded well beyond the region
The report said 2022 saw more interest in the community from both the region and internationally in part because of the Adena spec building, the SiteOhio authenticated Airport West property, and what was described as “airport aero space” that involves 410 acres north of that and north of Crall Road.
“From an interaction standpoint, it’s a numbers game,” Perry said. “You need to be putting your buildings and sites out and you‘re going to lose most of them, but you have to have them out there. Five site visits last year outranks any other year we’ve had.”
Thomas noted that three of the visits were from small, family owned German companies that are looking to locate in the U.S. to grow their market here because European demographics and energy costs are changing.
“When they need an expansion they look at where costs are reasonable, where they can get access to the markets they need to grow in and the demographics in Europe are changing so it’s tougher to find pipelines of talent,” he said. “Richland County does really well in all of those.”
Officials said the chamber has used state grants to create 35 employer-related videos as part of a talent attraction media campaign and supported and contributed to a $1.9 million state education grant to create summer and after-school career exploration programs in Richland, Crawford and Morrow counties that involved 156 students and more than 20 companies. The organization also was involved with a hands-on career institute and an EmployMEpalooza where students showcased their talents to employers in addition to the adult job fair and on-the-job training programs.
Officials also highlighted economic development in Shelby that included the first phase of a downtown streetscape, a new brewery and a bakery, façade improvement funding and retention and expansion of a business just outside the city that had been considering a move out. The chamber’s Shelby and Northern Richland County economic development manager, Jessica Gribben, received the Ohio Development Association “Rookie of the Year” award for her work with the projects and to help guide Shelby businesses through the pandemic.
Chamber officials said they are working to incorporate the new countywide branding strategy into marketing materials and will be looking at how to use the data from a recently completed housing study to deal with short-term needs and build for future development.
“The investment we have made is paying off and we appreciate what you‘re doing with workforce, filling up space, bringing people in,” said Commissioner Darrell Banks. “One thing we have to look at is that we have reasonably priced power. As a country we have to figure out how to do that.”
Commissioners’ chairman Cliff Mears agreed that the county’s financial investment over the past several years has paid off.
“I said not that long ago that Richland County is the place to be and I hear things like this and I’m more energized,” he said. “The assets we have, the resources we have, we’re not close to being optimized but you all are getting us there.”