The Many Facets of Economic Development

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

You have probably heard the term “economic development” bantered about, but have wondered just what that means to the City of Sidney. Economic Development is a multi-faceted concept. One of the best definitions I have seen is “efforts that seek to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community by creating and/or retaining jobs and supporting or growing income and the tax base.”

Economic development can mean everything from attracting a large manufacturing company to the area, to creating new jobs, to working to improve the quality of life for area residents by enticing additional shopping or eating options. Whether any given project provides jobs or amenities, economic development projects are time-consuming and involve juggling a number of balls simultaneously.

In the past couple of weeks, I have been approached by residents who had heard rumors that Olive Garden had decided not to locate here because the City had refused to allow them a large enough sign that would help them draw traffic from the interstate. I was sorry that the rumor had circulated, but at the same time, grateful that citizens chose to ask about the rumor rather than simply choosing to believe that the rumor was true.

Let me dispel the rumor immediately; no sign applications, from national or local eateries, have been received by the City of Sidney in months. More importantly, the sign permit application process is one of the last steps in the process of attracting new business/restaurants to the area – not the first. Given the nature of the rumors, I thought that it might be useful to discuss how communities go about attempting to recruit additional shopping and dining options for both their residents and visitors, as well as other economic development opportunities.

The City of Sidney partners with the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership (SSEP) as the point of contact for most development projects. SSEP is a not-for-profit organization consisting of private business and public leaders from across Shelby County who are dedicated to maintaining the county’s economic growth and stability.

SSEP facilitates the flow of information on available site and building locations, financing, utilities, transportation, labor and market data as well as tax information and available incentives. SSEP works regionally with the Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) and Jobs Ohio at the state level. Not only does SSEP work to attract new businesses to the area, the organization also works to retain and grow already established Sidney/Shelby County companies.

When considering a new location, large companies almost always hire a consultant to undertake research on potential locations. The site location consultant will provide the company with the options available. Once the prospective company has reviewed all that is available locally, site visits are made.

There are many factors considered in selecting the right location. Logistics, utilities, quality workforce, affordable supply of materials and proximity to suppliers and customers are all digested and compared to other potential sites.

I’d like to focus on the top three areas that are typically most important to site selectors and the ones that I feel make Sidney stand out among its competitors. Let’s first examine logistics.

A key logistical factor is Sidney’s location along Interstate 75 that includes four different interchanges located within the city limits. Sometimes called the crossroads of America, easy access to Interstate 70 from Interstate 75 is also another key factor. Our location places goods manufactured in Sidney within a day’s drive of 60 percent of the country’s population.

Railroad access is one of Sidney’s true, hidden strengths. Sidney is located on a North/South and East/West intersection of the CSX Railroad. Less than a decade ago, CSX invested heavily in a switch that allows the more than 100 trains that daily pass through Sidney to change their direction of travel.

The Sidney City Airport, with its dual-runways, one of which is more than 5,000 feet in length, handles commercial traffic daily. The longer runway, completed as a result of a major investment from the Federal Aviation Administration, can accommodate much larger aircraft than was previously the case.

For major air travel and international shipments, the Dayton International Airport is less than 35 miles from Sidney. Dayton International provides three different runways, with the longest being nearly 11,000-feet-long. Dayton International Airport is host to five major carriers providing access to destinations around the world.

Finally, there are more than 40 motor freight and trucking companies located in Shelby County, many of them located within the city limits. The multi-modal forms of transportation available in Sidney make the area ideal from a logistics perspective.

In addition to logistics, business and industry looking for new locations need readily available utilities. The continued improvements being made to local utilities will also play a vital role in Sidney’s future.

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is mayor of Sidney.

See tomorrow editorial page for the second half of this column.

The writer is mayor of Sidney.

See tomorrow editorial page for the second half of this column.