SIDNEY – Sidney and Shelby County leaders presented updates on ongoing initiatives in the city and county, including increased housing and placemaking, broadband and childcare access, and the county’s scorecard at a business after-hours/community update event at The Historic Sidney Theatre on Dec. 15.
Sidney Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth provided information on housing and placemaking. The number of certificates of occupancy issued in Sidney more than doubled in 2022 compared to 2021, meaning there are increasing housing opportunities. The city saw 33 in 2022 and 15 in 2021 with an almost even mix of double and single-family housing.
Dulworth discussed housing projects in various stages of design and permitting, like the Ohio Building with 42 units, Countryside Apartments with 36 units and Echo Drive Apartments with 216 units. The incentives available to encourage housing development are the REVIVE program which waives previously accumulated city fees and the Citywide CRA which provides property tax abatement.
Placemaking initiatives include a new parks and recreation master plan that will assess public engagement and recreation needs; improvements to gateway designs to support the city’s branding, like enhancing the Michigan Street bridge fence; and downtown enhancements, like archways across entryways to downtown and improvements to alleys. City staff also worked with The Ohio State University graduate students and staff to evaluate and design potential development of city sites, like the former Wagner manufacturing plant, Helen Court, and the Chestnut Avenue Train Station.
The city gathered private and public funding so they could utilize Downing Community Advisors for 18 months to develop tools and strategies to enhance housing revitalization, like developing a new housing website, restructuring common-interest communities (CIC) and educational and funding platforms. The website – with the goal of being a “one-stop shop” for housing opportunities, tools and resources – will be geared toward home buyers, investors, and residential and large-scale developers.
Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann first discussed Shelby County’s broadband internet access and cited a statistic that 80% of populated areas and 37% of households in the county do not have access to a minimum broadband speed of 25 Mbps for download and 3 Mbps for upload. A county-wide survey was performed and summarized that there is a high level of dissatisfaction with the price, speed and service of the largest broadband provider in the area. They also found that approximately 50% of the community is either extremely or somewhat dissatisfied with their internet service, and most people have slow service.
“We have 22 different providers, and most of them are wireless, and most of them are targeting very small parts of our county, and that is not competition; at the moment, that is chaos for this county,” Ehemann said.
Ehemann mentioned the new YMCA childcare center in Fair Haven Shelby County Home as she talked about the need for more quantity and quality childcare in the county.
“As a grandmother and as a mother, I’ve been very aware of what childcare challenges we have in Shelby County, and I was fortunate when I was a mother that I had a network of people that would help babysit. Well, that’s not what our kids need anymore, and if we are going to expect new people to move into our community, they are going to be looking for structured childcare, and we don’t have enough of it in this community,” Ehemann said as she pointed out the statistic that only about a third of children are ready to start kindergarten out of 2,333 children three years old or younger.
Jim Hill, the executive director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership (SSEP), ended the presentations with the county scorecard. Hill said Shelby County has met all the items on the scorecard, which were to improve the overall availability of housing, enhance the private/public partnerships, engage in a marketing and branding effort, attract more amenities (placemaking), clean up the former Wagner manufacturing plant, shovel ready site authentication, attract the next generation of advanced manufacturing, and support expanded workforce development.
Hill cited Site Selection Magazine’s Top Micros list and said that Sidney has been a top U.S. micropolitan for five years. Sidney’s micropolitan also ranked 24th in the U.S. in the POLICOM Economic Strength Rating, which was the second highest in Ohio. Statistics for the county included over $1 billion one-year capital investment; four of the top eight best performing schools in the region; 45.1% employed in manufacturing – number one in Ohio; six of the top 12 manufacturing companies in the region; and $9.1 billion in total manufacturing shipments.
Hill also discussed the Sidney and Russia industrial parks, the “Experience Sidney” marketing/branding initiative, the former Wagner manufacturing plant redevelopment, and the new SEMCORP plant.
Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership Board and Ferguson Construction President Mick Given provided closing remarks and presented SSEP trustees Phil Gilardi, Mike Lochard and Bruce Metz – whose terms are ending soon – with awards recognizing their service.
“It’s time to show our strength. It’s time to move this community to the next level. We can do it,” Given concluded. “Come mid-February or the end of February when those arches go across the three locations and we have those lit up, we need to celebrate because we’re gonna be the talk of the surrounding area of how this community has pulled together and made the differences that we’ve made.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.