Balance will be the key word related to future economic development in Delaware County.
Bob Lamb, the new director of the county’s economic development office, said he’s excited about new projects that he believes will attract more people to the county. Two of those projects are the new outlet mall in Berkshire Township and the Sawmill Parkway extension.
Lamb noted that construction of the new outlet mall is progressing smoothly. The mall, which is being developed by Simon Property Group of Indianapolis and Tanger Factory Outlet Centers of North Carolina, will be located at the junction of Interstate 71 and U.S. 36/State Route 37.
“The weather has been incredibly accommodating for them,” he said. “I think we’ll continue to see that move forward at a quick pace as long as the weather remains supportive for that type of development project.”
The 350,000-square foot facility is scheduled to open in June 2016. It will be home to more than 80 upscale brand-name and designer-outlet stores. About 900 full- and part-time jobs will be created. Lamb said he believes the mall will be beneficial for the entire central Ohio region.
“I’m very excited for it,” he said. “I think it’s a great addition to the community. I think it brings amenities that the residents will enjoy as well as providing amenities for the region as a whole outside of just Delaware County. I think it’s a move in the right direction and will open up more development opportunities in that 36/37/71 corridor.”
Lamb said he thinks the new mall will not only attract consumers from around the Columbus metro area, but also draw in shoppers from areas outside of central Ohio.
The Sawmill Parkway corridor is another prime area for growth, Lamb said. Delaware County Chief Deputy Engineer Rob Riley told county commissioners on Nov. 9 that the project is 75 percent complete. The 5.5-mile stretch of roadway from Hyatts Road in Liberty Township to Section Line Road just west of the city of Delaware is scheduled to open in October 2016.
“We think it will really open up some land for development opportunities for the county,” Lamb said. “We’re going to be working with the local jurisdiction partners that we have in that area to make sure we can bring it forward successfully. I think we’ll see a mixture of development come about because of this investment.”
Some of the existing facilities and infrastructure located adjacent to the parkway include the Delaware Municipal Airport, Delaware Innovation Park and a CSX Transportation rail line.
While he is excited about the potential for future commercial, industrial and residential growth in the county, Lamb said he also wants to be careful to maintain and encourage the area’s historic agricultural industry.
“There’s a lot of land in Delaware County that is programmed for agricultural purposes,” Lamb said. “If those property owners choose to sell it for other uses, that would open up land for development opportunities. I think one of the things we need to be cognizant of, though, is how important the agricultural industry is to central Ohio and specifically to Delaware County. We can’t lose sight of that as we pursue new development opportunities. Balance and engagement with our stakeholders will be important as we try to accommodate their needs.”
According to information included in the 2014 Delaware County Economic Development Strategic Plan, nearly 50 percent of the county’s land area is farm land. That translates to 140,902 acres. Those figures were from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture. The census also showed that farm employment in Delaware County totaled 1,390 people in 2012. The market value of land per acre was listed at $6,025.