Event speakers on the coming change in northwest Licking County: SiliconHeartland.com staff
A recent event featured nine speakers offering different perspectives on the impact of Intel and other high-tech developments in New Albany. Prepare to Prosper, sponsored by SiliconHeartland.com and staged by R.S. Rock Media, was held March 2 at the Estate at New Albany.
Here is a summary of the remarks by the president of the Johnstown Chamber of Commerce, the president of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, an attorney and former Granville Township Trustee, the president of the Central Ohio African American Chamber of Commerce and the director of data center engineering for Cloudflare. (See previous Preparing to Prosper post for other speaker comments.)
Jesse Coppel: President of the Johnstown Chamber of Commerce
Coppel said Johnstown is facing similar challenges to Galena. His municipality directly abuts the Intel project and the New Albany International Business Park. The Licking County community, which recently became a city after reaching 5,000 residents, has embarked on a new strategic plan.
He noted there is no hotter housing market with values up more than 50 percent over the last year. It’s an opportunity that hasn’t been missed because “demand for housing has only been increasing,” he said.
Currently, several entities are vying for water rights: Licking County, City of Columbus, Del-Co Water Company and Johnstown Water & Sewer.
Coppel said the addition of large companies like Intel and Amgen also will bring suppliers, which offers one of the biggest opportunities for communities like Johnstown due to proximity to the sites. The influx of all these businesses provides opportunities for retail as well.
“We’re more geared toward focusing on small businesses,” he said.
The rapid growth also creates turmoil for local government, which is why Johnstown—impacted by several departures of public officials and city department heads in the past year—is working with more than a dozen communities in Licking County on a strategic framework for the area.
Amy Taylor: President of Columbus Downtown Development Corporation
“In order for us all to prosper, downtown has to be a part of that,” Taylor said. “We need to lean into key things that downtown has been leaning into for the past 10 to 15 years.”
To do that, she said downtown has to be a place for everyone. “We need to care about local more than we care about national,” according to Taylor. “Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood.”
Taylor said the goal is to create connectivity. “We’ve had a lot of great success stories,” she said. “We need to connect it all together and make one great experience.”
Connecting people to neighborhoods and downtown districts is the focus of the CDDC’s 2022 strategic plan. “Placemaking is about creating memories,” Taylor said. She related a story about special memories she has of visiting Columbus City Center as a college student. She contrasted that with her daughter’s memories of meeting Peabo Bryson at Columbus Commons on the same site.
She noted that what differentiates downtown from surrounding communities in the metro area is density, which she said, “can be a key source for solving the region’s problems.”
She listed the following as goals for the future of downtown Columbus:
- Create more opportunities: through the development of The Peninsula (across from COSI), the Merchant Building (as part of the North Market project) and Topiary Park Crossing (new affordable housing)
- Reimagine existing assets: such as redeveloping the YMCA and converting the PNC Tower and the Continental Centre from commercial to residential
- Activate the pedestrian experience: by tying in the riverfront to downtown districts
- Connect to the region: Central Ohio communities “can’t be a suburb of nothing,” she said.
Jim Havens: Former Granville Township Trustee and Founder of Havens Limited, Cardinal Title Insurance and Rudolph Development
Havens described downtown Granville as a planned community patterned after Granville, Massachusetts. During his tenure as a township trustee from 1996 to 2008, the local opera house burned to the ground. Rather than rebuild, the trustees decided to use the $500,000 insurance payment to preserve open space in the township and build parks.
In addition, Ohio legislators had passed legislation allowing townships to impose a self-tax for open space.
He noted that these two opportunities have allowed the Village of Granville to preserve, sustain and protect open space and areas of special interest that will create a buffer against any encroaching development spurred by the Intel plants.
J. Averi Frost: Executive Director of Central Ohio African American Chamber of Commerce
COAACC was founded in 2018 as a resource for the 20,000 Black-owned businesses in the region. Frost said the organization’s mission is to advocate and educate. “We want to make sure small business and Black-owned businesses are part of the conversation,” she said.
The Chamber serves as a resource navigator for members to gain entry into new markets; build relationships through strategic partnerships and opportunities for collaborations; and to gain access to capital.
Currently, there are 120 members. The average member is the business and consumer services industry and has been in business for 15 years and employs 8 people.
Three areas of assistance offered by COAACC are:
- Acceleration: providing opportunities to scale up and resources to add capacity; assisting with financial literacy, and nurturing young entrepreneurs
- Access: to procurement, media opportunities, capital, pipelines and resources
- Advocacy: legislative; public and private sector; and business-to-business exposure available from Black-owned businesses
Rich McMunn: Director of Data Center Engineering for global company Cloudfare
McMunn and his family left the East Coast to settle in Ohio. Prior to his arrival, his research told him the cost of living would be 10-11 percent lower than the national average. He had found that Central Ohio was known as a great place to start a business because of venture capital and research investment. He compared it to the Silicon Valley in the early 1990s.
“I knew all the companies planting a flag here – Amgen and Meta – it was not just hype,” McMunn said.
He and his family visited New Albany, talking to as many people as they could before making the move. They heard that it was a tremendous place to live and work. He says despite all the accolades, such as readily available capital and a talent pipeline, he knew that it would take more than that and, he said, the region does have more to offer.
“There’s something special here in Ohio,” McMunn said. “There’s a sense of community and partnership.”
It’s a quality that needs to be preserved, he noted.
The partnerships that are nurtured and developed help breed, multiply and grow more success. “It allows everyone to become more prosperous,” said McMunn, a former top executive at the Google data center in New Albany. “The collaborations and partnerships are the secret sauce here.”
McMunn said he found that with the New Albany Company, the City of New Albany and the New Albany Chamber of Commerce are open to new ideas and figuring out ways to make them work.
He encouraged those in the region to “be proud of what you have built here in Central Ohio and don’t ever lose the sense of partnership in your community.”
He added, “Keep an open mind of how we can all work together to build a prosperous community.”