EATON — At recent Preble County Development Partnership investor and chamber of commerce annual events, Preble County Economic Development Director Brenda Latanza shared success stories, business updates and insights into potential future growth for the area.
“There is no better marketing strategy than the demonstration of a successful and thriving business climate,” she began.
Businesses small and large were part of Latanza’s presentation.
“Last year Henny Penny Corporation celebrated the opening of their new training center,” she said. “This $8 million investment in a 46,000 square foot facility includes a test kitchen, auditorium, training room and additional manufacturing and office space. The 539-employee company continues to grow. This year, Henny Penny applied for — and was approved for — a $500,000 Economic Development CDBG loan with the Ohio Development Services Agency, to be used toward the purchase of $1.7 million in new equipment.”
According to officials, with this investment, Henny Penny will create 21 new jobs.
“This ODSA funding is a great opportunity for Preble County. As Henny Penny pays back the $500,000, it goes into a County Revolving Loan Fund that will be utilized for companies in need of gap financing. Thank you Henny Penny!” Latanza said.
She continued, “Just this year, Kettering Health Network invested $10.5 million to build and equip the Preble County Emergency Center. As a result, 43 jobs have been created to date. Coming soon is the helicopter base for MedFlight. This is an awesome benefit to the county!
“Silfex continues to grow. In 2010 there were 206 employees — prior to the most recent project this year, they had 366 employees.”
According to Latanza, with a new investment of $5.4 million in equipment and facility, Silfex is adding 109 new jobs. Working in conjunction with the City of Eaton, JobsOhio and the Ohio Development Services Agency, Silfex received a commitment of $541,000 in state incentives and $135,000 Job Creation tax incentive from the City of Eaton.
The Preble County Development Partnership works with businesses of all sizes. “This year the PCDP made our first loan to a small business from a Revolving Loan Fund that was created through the Business Development Committee,” Latanza explained. “The Revolving Loan Fund Committee reviewed the application from Wilcat Sports & Graphics’ screen printing and embroidery business and approved them for funding in the amount of $10,000. This small business, located on Main Street in Eaton, continues to grow and build their business. They are greatly appreciative to the partnership for this gap financing resource.”
The PCDP continues to work to promote area properties for potential growth opportunities.
“Early this year, the Partnership submitted two properties for the Ohio Development Services Agency SiteOhio initiative,” Latanza said. “The sites could fall within the ‘fatally flawed’ group, the ‘pipeline group’ or the ‘ready to be certified’ group. Both of ours fell into the pipeline category.”
According to Latanza, the PCDP has been able to continue working with one of the sites, 161 acres located in Lewisburg. “We resubmitted the site with updated information mid-November for a second round review,” she said. “This is a work in progress. We should hear from them by end of February 2017 on our new score.”
Preble County held its first Business Walk this year. Representatives from the Preble County Development Partnership and other regional resource partners canvassed the community to talk with business owners.
“We were able to discuss opportunities and obstacles that may face their business and to provide them with resources and assistance to address their needs,” Latanza said. “We broke into teams and visited 20 small businesses in Eaton, West Alexandria and Lewisburg.”
The Preble County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and Land Use Plan was in the final stages of completion in early December. Preble County Commissioners completed their review, it was approved by the Planning Commission and the required two public hearings were held.
“This was a huge undertaking by the Partnership, the county and the Business Development Committee,” Latanza said. “Once the process is complete, we will present the plan to our mayors and townships. We appreciate the input from all who were involved.”
Other success stories stem from Workforce Development Committee activities.
“We are fortunate that Sinclair Community College operates a manufacturing training lab in our county,” Latanza said. “Several of our companies are utilizing the lab now. The Partnership and our Workforce Development Committee work closely with our educators. Sinclair recently invested $75,000 in new equipment for the lab. It is in a very convenient location and easy to access.”
According to Latanza, the PCDP Workforce Development Committee assembled the manufacturing community this past summer to assist Sinclair and MVCTC in creating an entry-level manufacturing training program to address challenges “with regard to the pipeline of entry-level workers and skills gaps with current workforce.”
Some 25 industry partners participated in the session, according to Latanza. “Input from the county’s employers ensures outcomes are aligned with industry needs,” she said.
“As part of our strategy to simultaneously address workforce development and economic development, Preble County has worked together to become an ACT Certified Work Ready Community,” Latanza reported. “We are excited to say that we reached that goal early this fall. We are the only Certified ACT Work Ready Community in the State of Ohio. Others are working toward certification.”
The ACT certification is based primarily on the National Career Readiness Certificate, according to Latanza, who said this is a “portable industry-recognized credential that identifies a person’s skills by utilizing three ACT WorkKeys assessments: applied math, reading for information and locating information.”
“When a person walks into a company to interview for a job, we have 38 companies in our county that understand the value of the NCRC,” Latanza said. “It is just as important that the individual understands the value as well.”
Marketing Preble County and encouraging growth will continue, and many things make it easy, according to Latanza.
“We have all the benefits of having I-70 run through our county, along with the abundance of water, great utility partners, and land and buildings, and we welcome the opportunity to market Preble County for potential new business opportunities,” she said. “With our JobsOhio partners, we have the opportunity to showcase our region and Preble County to site selectors across the United States. Whether we are visiting them in their state or they come to Ohio to visit our region, these are invaluable opportunities to learn from site selectors and to show the value of our region and our communities for potential new business opportunities.”
“Preble County is the fifth largest ag county in the state and we pride ourselves in our strong workforce and strong work ethic,” Latanza said. “These traits make it easy to market Preble County.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.