Delaware County’s population is now approaching 200,000 residents, Delaware County’s economic development director, Robert Lamb, told members of the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce this week.
“By 2050, the (central Ohio) population will be a million,” Lamb said. The bottom line for “economic growth is addressing the needs of the community.”
Lamb spoke to chamber members Thursday and updated them on the county’s Strategic Economic Development Plan during their monthly luncheon at SourcePoint.
Over the past few months, Lamb and his team has been engaging the public in meetings, asking for residents’ input for the county’s economic development plan.
From the engagements, they have received 519 responses from a survey conducted.
Lamb said the survey showed schools were rated the highest in priority for residents of the county.
Just behind schools, residents feel the development of small businesses and entrepreneurial opportunities is also high on the list.
Other priorities residents feel to be high in the economic development of the county are roads, sewers and water, gas and fiber optic capabilities for both commercial businesses, and high-end housing developments.
Lamb stressed that the economic development of the county doesn’t move forward without the help and feedback from the residents of the county. “We can’t be successful alone,” Lamb said. “We need to drive forward together.”
“We’re going to make sure all the services are available to make us competitive.”
One of the needs that Lamb and his team see is the large amount of time residents spend commuting to Columbus for work. Lamb pointed out that commuters travel 41 minutes to Columbus for work each day. That is 82 minutes of total travel time a day, instead of spending it with their families. “If jobs move up to here, then that goes away,” Lamb said.
To be able to attract businesses that will bring the higher-paying jobs, Lamb said, “It’s getting out in front of businesses and letting them know that we are here and open for business.”
The key is to remove “red-flag issues” that keep businesses from expansion and staying in the area. Many companies have operations around the country, making the competition to attract businesses national and international.
“We are working with our existing companies in our community,” he said, “making sure when they choose where their next investment is going to be in that company, they pick our community. We want to make sure they are picking Delaware County for that investment.”
“One of the things we’ll need to have, going forward, is that choice to invest in multifamily options throughout the county,” Lamb said.
Millennials who don’t want to live in downtown Columbus are moving to Delaware County. “I think diversification in housing is so critical for the long-term economic viability of the county,” Lamb said. “As we grow our population, we’ll be in position for those types of things.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin