SIDNEY — The local economy looked good last year, with a low unemployment rate and much construction activity, Sidney City Council learned in a report presented Monday night.
The city also has the potential for more industrial growth because of the availability of suitable land, Mike Dodds, executive director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership (formerly the West Ohio Development Council), told council at its workshop session.
The county’s jobless rate dropped throughout most of 2014, ending below 4 percent in December. However, this good news is tempered by a shortage of “a qualified workforce,” Dodds said. He said local companies have problems finding workers with the necessary skills.
The Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership has been addressing that problem with its new Workforce Academy at Sidney High School. “We’re trying to make kids aware of the jobs available in Shelby County and the skills needed for those jobs,” he said.
Workforce Academy has grown beyond expectations — from 145 students its first school year (2014-15) to 1,200 next school year. “I think that’s a remarkable achievement,” said Dodds, who credited Sharon Maurice, program director, with the success.
A puzzling statistic Dodds’ reported was the drop in the estimated civilian labor force in the county from 28,000 in 2007 to slightly more than 24,000 in 2014.
Mayor Mike Barhorst asked where those 3,000 to 4,000 people went?
Dodds said the population has not dropped, so that could not account for the decrease in the labor force. He said there has been speculation some people stopped looking for jobs because they could not afford child care.
Construction activity in the county approached $100 million in 2014, according to the report, and was only a little below last year’s level in 2013. These was large increases over the 2007-2012 period.
Dodds reviewed several sites available in Sidney that might be attractive to companies considering locating here. These consist of seven sites west of Interstate 75 and one east of it, ranging in size from 24 to 250 acres. The sites are either adjacent to or near I-75 and some also have railroad access.
“There are plenty of sites in Sidney for expansion,” Dodds said.
The Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership has began participating the past few months in the Dayton Power and Light Evaluation and Certification Program. The program uses a consulting firm experienced in evaluating sites for industrial expansion.
Dodds listed the following facts that show Shelby County is outstanding in the 14-county Dayton economic development region:
• Shelby County has the highest percentage per capita of manufacturing employment – nearly 40 percent.
• Nearly 5,000 more people come to Shelby County each day to work than leave to work.
• Two of the top three manufacturing companies in the Dayton region are in Shelby County; four in the top 25.
• The largest manufacturing company in the Dayton region is Honda Engine Plant.
• Two of the top three schools in Dayton region are in Shelby County; four of top 10.
The writer may be contacted at 937-538-4823 and on Twitter @MikeSeffrinSDN.