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County’s economy is strong and expected to get even stronger

County’s economy is strong and expected to get even stronger

The economic health of the county is good and on the threshold of setting records, according to Jon Cross, President and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance.

Cross was one of the presenters at the Alliance’s Economic and Community Development Breakfast on Friday morning at Henry’s Restaurant in Kenton. Community and business leaders filled the banquet room to hear an update on local development and the programs being offered to businesses.

The work force is estimated at 14,800 with 14,100 workers on the job, said Cross. That translates into an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.

“Basically we are at full employment,” Cross said. “Business is booming in Hardin County.”

He noted there have been no major layoffs of the work force. Plus businesses, such as Mid-Ohio Energy and Hardin Memorial Hospital, are expanding and investing in the community.

Cross also noted the announcement late last year that EverPower Wind Holdings LLC would move forward with developing 189 wind turbines within the county. That, he said, represents an investment of $300 million in the community.

A second wind farm is in development with a third on the wings, he said. Once the projects are all completed, there is the potential that the three energy producers will have spent $1 billion in the county.

Plans are in the making to develop the former Hardin Central School site in Kenton into a group of retail stores and there is some initial interest being shown by a company to move into the Kmart building after that stores closes in early March.

The Alliance is working to continue to strengthen the local economy through training programs for the work force and the development of opportunities for young people to secure professional training, said Cross.

The Student Job and Career Fair to take place next month at Kenton High School will connect students from across the county with at least 30 area business leaders.

“This is a great work force development issue we are launching,” said Cross. “If we don’t help provide good employees to you, our economy won’t grow.”

There is a need for commercial buildings, said Cross. Investors are looking beyond Hardin County because they are seeking “buildings ready to go.”

Hardin County Job and Family Services Director Barb Maxson said her agency is planning programs in partnership with Ohio Means Jobs to provide additional training to the work force. Some sessions are slated for next month during which JFS will meet with businesses in small groups to discuss what their needs are from the labor force.

“This is a very exciting time,” said Maxson. “We are all working together with the Alliance and the schools … We want to be where you go to when you need help to fill a position.”

There are work force training program funds available, she said.

“There are dollars on the table you can access,” agreed Cross. “Things are coming together.”

Later in the meeting, Steve Martin, dean of the Ohio Northern School of Pharmacy, gave an update on the university’s mobile clinic and introduced intern Colin Frank to share the advantages in using the school’s tobacco cessation program.

The cost of having employees who smoke, said Frank, goes beyond them missing work a few times a year. There is also the burden on employers to pay for the additional health care for those using tobacco.

It has been estimated that 30 percent of the county’s population uses tobacco in one form or another. The program ONU is offering increases the participants’ chance of successfully quitting smoking by ten times, said Frank.

“Or goal is to improve the health of Hardin County,” said Frank. “This is a tool for the community to help the community.”

By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer