Last year was a stellar year for economic development for the Regional Growth Partnership, the 17-county Jobs Ohio network that includes Hardin County.
RGP secured 2,940 new jobs in Northwest Ohio and retained 13,356 jobs and had $1.4 billion in capital investment.
Hardin County reaped the benefit of that growth including the opening of the $5.2 million Sekisui facility in Kenton and the completion of International Paper’s expansion project.
And if early indications hold true, 2016 could be just as strong a year for Northwest Ohio and Hardin County, according to John Recker of the Regional Growth Partnership and Jobs Ohio.
Recker said, during a Chamber and EDC breakfast Friday morning in Kenton, that so far in 2016 there have been 767 new jobs in Northwest Ohio and 3,795 retained jobs with $409 million in capital investment.
He told the 30 business and community leaders in attendance that Hardin County has several active projects in the works at the current time, citing the Associated Plastics expansion in Ada and another potential project in Ada, as well as potential projects in Forest and Kenton.
“Hardin County has had some great news in the last few years,” Recker said. “The International Paper expansion was tremendous. That was one of the biggest state wins for expansion that year. Sekisui was a a great win for getting an automotive manufacturer in the region.
“So Hardin County has had some great news in 2014 and 2015 and there are a lot of things cooking right now with projects in Hardin County,” Recker said.
Recker said Regional Growth Partnership normally maintains about 70 active projects.
“We have four active projects right now in Hardin County,” Recker said. “We worked with Associated Plastics and the Village of Ada and provided some roadwork grant money that Associated Plastics needed to grow.
“There is a second project that (Hardin County EDC Director) Jon Cross and I just started working on in Ada a few weeks ago. We also have a really exciting project, an attractive project, in Forest. That’s all I can say about that. And we have a fourth active project in Kenton that could be a very significant construction project for the community.”
Prior to Recker’s presentation, Cross gave some additional figures on economic development in Hardin County over the past two year.
“There’s a lot of good things happening in Hardin County and we’re excited,” he said. “We always talk about having $200 million worth of new capital investment over the past two years, we’ve created over 500 new jobs in the county and produced significant numbers for the size of our county. With 2016-17 with some projects on the way we hope to add to those investment dollars and job creation numbers. There’s a lot of things to be proud of.
“Regional Growth Partnership is a tremendous asset for us. Without them and without the Jobs Ohio network we would not be able to chase a lot of economic development opportunities.”
Also during the meeting, Cross announced the merging of the economic development and community development committees.
“They talk about a lot of similar things so we wanted to merge some things together,” Cross said. “Jacqueline Fitzgerald will still oversee the community development division and EDC certainly has a separate and important role in the organization, but we wanted to streamline some things.”
The EDC director also announced he has been traveling around the county meeting with all the school boards.
Cross said he is working with the schools to put on a job and career fair specifically for 12th grade students sometime after the holiday break.
“When IP had its expansion project and the CEO flew into town he was not shy to say they recruit straight from high schools because they want to bring employees in, train them and have them be long, dedicated employees to the company,” Cross said. “We would like to try and do something for students to build resumes, learn about career services and find out about our companies.”
He also said he wants to see the Alliance begin industry tours for 10th and 11th grade students.
Cross said that idea came about because his wife Christina teaches at Kenton High School and a student of hers told her they lived in Kenton their entire life but have never been to Ada.
“It was really eye-opening for myself and Christina, so we wanted to do industry tours to get kids excited about opportunities in Hardin County,” he said. “And also so they can explore Hardin County. I’ve lived here my entire life but I never knew that Associated Plastics in Ada makes parts for the toy John Deere tractors you see in Walmart. In addition to Wilson football and all the exciting things that we do, we want students to see the true potential that is here. “
Fitzgerald announced there will be Buckeye Bash tailgate party the night of Oct. 15 during which a 30-by-30 foot screen will televise an Ohio State away game that is taking place at 8 p.m. She said there will be food trucks there, including local food vendors.