EATON — Two public meetings scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 7, will allow for public comments concerning the proposed Preble County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and Land Use Plan. The meetings will be held in the Commissioners’ chambers located on the first floor of the courthouse. They are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The proposed plan, last updated in 2000, can be viewed at www.prebco.org.
The 59-page document lists nine priorities concerning land use and economic growth. The nine priorities are:
1. New Paris area: The plan seeks to improve the utilities offered in the U.S. 40 between Ohio 320 and Interstate 70. The goal is to “develop financial alternatives with the Village of New Paris to extend water and sewer services to the corridor area.” The cost of this type of project is estimated at about $3 million dollars.
2. Upper-end Housing: The county would work with banks and real estate leaders to keep or attract company executives to live inside the county. The plan states, “Presently, the upper level management of many companies reside outside the County due to housing availability.”
3. Overnight Facilities: The goal is to establish relationships with “business leaders and county leaders of recreational opportunities and events to determine the need for overnight facilities.”
4. Attract agriculture-centric businesses to maintain current culture. By developing key relationships with agricultural leaders and agencies, the county hopes to attract “business that compliments the needs of this industry.”
5. Deal with Vacant Sites. According to the Plan, the county needs to “create a formal marketing and retention plan to continue to attract new occupants for existing vacant sites.” The Preble County Development Partnership website currently lists 17 vacant properties of potential interests to businesses. The sites are in Eaton, New Paris and Lewisburg.
6. Develop the Interstate 70/Ohio 503 interchange in Lewisburg. The plan notes that the village of Lewisburg recently obtained water and wastewater facilities on the south side of the interchange which will enable Lewisburg and Harrison Township to attract business to the location. The plan also notes the intent of Lewisburg officials to obtain an ‘industrial site certification for a 165-acre tract’ on the west side of the village near the Lewisburg Corrugator facility.
7. Market the Rocky Run Industrial Park in Eaton. The park, located on U.S. 35 on the east side of Eaton, is a 55-acre site which contains water and sanitary sewer services and access to electric, natural gas, and fiber optic facilities. The city of Eaton is seeking an industrial site certification for the industrial park, the Plan states.
8. Construction of bi-directional access at I-70 and U.S. 35, Exit 1, U.S. 40 Corridor. The goal is to create better access to U.S. 40 and open “the U.S. 40/I-70 development corridor to more traffic.”
9. Develop the interstate interchange on U.S. 127. As the plan states, “Preble County serves as the gateway to Ohio from the west,” so the goal is to develop this region by resolving one of its major drawbacks – the lack of water and wastewater systems. The plan states that a project to develop those systems would cost between $3.5 million and $6.5 million dollars.
Residents wishing to voice their concerns or their support for the Plan are encouraged to attend either of the public meetings on Wednesday.
Preble County trends
The plan also includes a snapshot of some of the current trends in the county based on information from the American Community Survey and Census reports.
A few of the trends and statistics noted in the document are:
• The market value of agricultural products sold in the five-year period between 2007 and 2012 increased 41 percent.
• Graduation rates in the five schools in the county are significantly higher than Ohio’s 82 percent graduation rate. Preble County’s rates range from 89 to 95 percent.
• The county’s poverty rate of 8.4 percent (residents with incomes below the poverty rate) is about 35 percent lower than the state average of 11.4 percent.
• After spiking at 12 percent in 2009, the county’s unemployment rate has fallen each subsequent year to its current level of 4.5 percent.
• Several businesses in the county expanded the square footage of their facilities in the past few years – adding new jobs to the local economy in the process. Some of the businesses that expanded were: Pratt Industries in Lewisburg, Henny Penny in Eaton, DM Tool in Lewisburg and Timken Steel in Eaton.
• The county’s population began declining in 2000.
• Forty-four percent of Preble County residents are employed in another county.
• Wages paid in Preble County are about 25 percent lower than the state average — $633 versus $839 per week.