For Pickaway Progress Partnership (P3), the last months of 2020 have been the busiest and offer hope for the future of employment in Pickaway County.
P3 is the economic development entity for Pickaway County and is tasked with promoting new manufacturing and industrial growth, as well as growth of such existing businesses.
Ryan Scribner, P3 Economic Development Director, said for what they do, things have never been busier in their office.
“If you read or watch national news, you’d think the world was coming to an end and we’re in a catastrophic economic decline and all hope is lost,” Scribner mentioned. “There’s no questions; there’s been impact and people have lost jobs or have been displaced from what they were doing before the pandemic started. There’s real and obvious impact on our local government as far as their revenue streams and inconvenience, we’re experiencing, but for what we do at P3, which is supporting and driving industry, which is the foundation of our local economy, we’ve never been busier.
For what we do in our development sector and not being unsympathetic to what’s going on around us, we’ve never been busier and I’ve never been more optimistic to be competitive and to grow our industrial development in Pickaway County based on what we’re seeing on the ground and living through what we’re doing every day.”
Scribner said, from top to bottom, the county has new facilities, new prospects and growth.
“We have literally millions of square feet of facilities that are either under construction or about ready to break ground with a seeming insatiable appetite or demand for ecommerce fulfillment and logistics,” he remarked. “We read a news article that there’s a belief that there’s a need for a billion square feet of retail space to accommodate things as people migrate more toward ecommerce. The whole southern hemisphere of the Rickenbacker area, which is all in Pickaway County, has been built to accommodate that sort of thing.”
Scribner said now that some of that infrastructure has gone in, the parking lots are full of people working in those facilities.
“The local tax base is growing with every project that is completed,” he added. “We’ve got big projects under construction now and we’ve got conversations with a half dozen different developers looking for that next campus to keep up with this demand. That seems to happen whether we’re in a recession or not.”
Scribner said expansions like the $230 million project at DuPont is expected to bring about 50 jobs.
“We had some disruption with local manufacturing and some temporary shutdowns tied to the automotive sector that were a domino effect when Honda temporarily shut down earlier this year,” he explained. “For the most part, like at Sofidel, they’re going gangbusters trying to keep up with the demand. They’ve done a ton of hiring there.”
Scribner said the county is at the goal line with a couple projects.
“They’re really exciting manufacturing prospects that it’s hard to believe they’re in the market, but they are and we’re competing for them,” he said.
When it comes to two long-term projects the General Electric site on East Ohio Street and the former Thompson property, Scribner said the Thompson property is being marketed and has come a long way.
“The Thompson property is a great story in the making, we had a massive plant that shut down that left environmental mess and a site not ready for anything,” he remarked. “We got the site cleaned up with $3.5 million in infrastructure and no public debt — all grant funded. We got the site ready for new development and you’re seeing that with some of the retail services out front, the hotel and the strip mall, but we’ve got interest in the property in the back. I just had a call from a developer looking for a site like that and they asked for information about it. I think there’s great things happening there when you think about what it was and what we have now.”
Scribner said another benefit that’s happened is creating a new transportation infrastructure district and other strategic planning.
“The [transportation infrastructure district] is a new public body that provides us a forum to do some join planning and prioritization and infrastructure projects to provide for development in the county,” he explained. “It also gives us an opportunity to apply for funding we’ve not been able to apply for before. Right now, we have an applications in through ODOT for a project that you can’t get in the absence of the transportation infrastructure district.”
Broadband was another hot topic for P3 and is something they’ve made a strategic initiative in 2020, according to Scribner.
“We have a project in Circleville that will provide new broadband options in Circleville that we can’t talk publicly about yet, but it’s a new provider we’re working with and we’re also exploring a fit for some COVID-related relief for a grant application to fill in the broadband map and fill in the service gaps around the county,” he said.
“There’s a reason why there’s a service gap, we lack some of the population and density you need to provide better options in the market and in the absence of a whole bunch of people moving in overnight, the only way you fill in that map is to use these grants, like the Federal Economic Development Administration funding that’s out there. We’re putting in an approach to get some of that money.”
Scribner said the bottom line is Pickaway County is still competing and still looking for ways to grow even during the pandemic.
“There’s ways to make ourselves more competitive such as creating the [transportation infrastructure district] and the broadband initiatives. So, we feel good about what’s happening right now,” he said.