Delaware County leaders discussed economic recovery initiatives in 2020 and 2021 in a Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce virtual event held Thursday.
“This has been a very unusual year obviously,” said Commissioner Gary Merrell of 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis. He then presented a timeline of how the county assisted economically after the first cases of COVID-19 were being announced and things started shutting down.
Delaware County declared an emergency on March 19, and the county began the first phase of rollout assistance on April 16. On April 27, property tax deadlines were extended, and on May 14, a revolving loan fund was established. Neighborhoods were helped, too, such as purchasing a new van for the Second Ward Community Initiative on July 29. The second phase of economic assistance was launched for local businesses on Oct. 22. This included the distribution of $1.95 million through the Small Business Program, community enhancement, and a $6 million emergency rent assistance program through a federal grant coming in 2021.
“We dealt successfully with the unexpected, not even COVID could slow us down,” Merrell said. “We have a great group of local officials who work together and work well together. We’re very proud of how we handled the last year and look forward to the year ahead.”
“We saw many projects move forward, but we also saw many projects put on hold,” said Delaware County Economic Development Director Bob Lamb. He noted that at one point last year, there was 14% unemployment in the county, and now it is at 4%. He then discussed some of the projects his team worked on.
Lamb said the Route 23 corridor overlay and the routes 36/37 Berlin Township corridor were both successfully implemented, and at 3,600 acres combined, one of the largest projects the Economic Development team has been involved with. In addition, they worked on a 5G cellular/fiber development plan, created 200 new jobs with an average salary of $75,000 each, a five-year goal plan for the Delaware County Finance Authority, a Delaware County Trails Program, plus their first private acquisition. They also provided development services for Berkshire, Liberty and Orange townships.
The team also helped secure $285,000 in public infrastructure funding for the downtown Kilbourne project, which Lamb said is a great project because the developer used to live in Brown Township.
“In 2021, we’re seeing a lot of interest in moving projects ahead,” Lamb said. Some of the top 20 projects were listed: Orange Grand II; Berlin Township Metro Project; Berlin Township Park Industrial Development; Yates Development in Berlin Business Park; Wilcox Development along Route 23; Evans Farm Sports Complex; OhioHealth — Sawmill deal; Sawmill Metro Project; Creekside 100,000-square-feet; Creekside — Tenby — 30 acres for development; Berkshire Project at Interchange; Trivium Development in Westerville; and the Rockford Development — Stratford.
“I want to applaud leadership for acting in such an innovative way,” added Kelsey Scott of the Economic Development team.
President Holly Quaine said the chamber’s in-person events with social distancing will resume in April. She said the assistance also helped in “making the world aware of small business in a way that has been unprecedented. People have no idea what they go through to turn that sign around and open that business every day. It’s herculean.”
She also praised the Delaware Public Health District. “Our health district has just been extraordinary through all this,” Quaine said.