Event speakers on the coming change in northwest Licking County
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 mayor of Galena, at top official at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the president of Otterbein University and the co-founder of SiliconHeartland.com. (See other Preparing to Prosper post for the other speakers.)
Jill Love: Mayor of Galena and RE/MAX Realtor
Love said Galena, a village in Delaware County, knows its identity and what it wants to be. “That has been our guide to planning, funding and culture,” she said.
“We aren’t striving to be someone else and that’s something people love about Galena. We do know we’re going to change.”
She said the village leaders want to grow responsibly and keep a pulse on the community. This is accomplished through open dialogue and encouraging everyone to be a part of the solution, which allows “people to feel more engaged and in control.”
Galena collaborates with surrounding communities and regional planning groups. “We’re going to have a heck of a traffic issue,” she said. “We’re talking to everyone. We’ve got to get out of the bubble, be humble and recognize what we don’t know.”
She acknowledged that many of the communities have the same needs; they’re just different size needs.
Galena is in the process of updating its master plan and inviting developers to join the conversation. The village is expected to annex 1,000 acres in the next two to five years. “We’re creating a public-private partnership with the landowner that could help us fund our economic development strategy,” she said.
Dr. Kerstin Carr: Chief Regional Strategy Officer for Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC)
Dr. Carr noted that the Columbus Region is one of the fastest growing metros in the country and the fastest growing metro in the state. She said over the next 25 years, the area will see 272,000 additional households and 357,000 more workers, with Central Ohio expected to reach a population of 3.15 million people by 2050.
With such explosive growth, MORPC anticipates more than 100,000 new houses will be needed to be built “in just the next decade alone,” she said. Dr. Carr added that the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio has said that would be a two-fold increase over recent trends.
In 2020, MORPC was asked to lead a study of housing statistics for Central Ohio. The core issues the study found were:
- Increasing competition
- Not enough houses
- Discrimination still exists in the market
- Demand for more housing stock
- Housing instability
Dr. Carr said barriers to development include uncertainty, higher costs, lack of political support and limited gap financing. “A lot of communities are doing great work reinventing their downtowns and building more housing stock,” she said. In addition to those efforts, she would encourage communities to think more creatively by incorporating sidewalks, street trees and more density into projects to make neighborhoods more walkable and appealing.
MORPC also has teamed with COTA, Franklin County and the City of Columbus to create LinkUS to consider the transportation impact from explosive growth in the region. Pro-active solutions include Central Ohio Greenways, a trail network of more than 230 miles; Rapid 5, which connects waterways and trails into one interconnected, greenspace system; and rail opportunities, including expansion of Amtrak to Columbus, which was recently endorsed by Governor Mike DeWine.
Dr. John Comerford: President of Otterbein University
Dr. Comerford talked about the state of higher education and the challenges it is facing – most notably when rankings determine its reputation. “Rankings ignore the strength of the system, which is its diversity,” he said.
The result is what he called “strange incentives.” Colleges and universities are ranked higher the more selective they are or for “how many children we say ‘no’ to,” Dr. Comerford said. They also are rewarded for being more expensive and rank highly for amenities such as “lazy rivers and climbing walls.”
Dr. Comerford said that test scores correlate to family income and said the “deep, dark secret” is that most financial aid to American colleges and universities go to students who don’t have financial need.
“The American Dream is closed to many deserving students,” he said.
Most colleges and universities should be classified as charities, according to Dr. Comerford, adding that many are supported by taxpayers.
Three areas of focus at Otterbein and how the institution is addressing them are:
- Need-based aid – Otterbein has implemented an Opportunity Scholarship, which provides a full-need tuition without student loans.
- Adult learners – Dr. Comerford said that there are 3.1 million Ohio adults who have some college education but no degree. Otterbein is joining forces with Antioch University in New Hampshire to develop a network of universities catering to this population.
- Workforce development – The Point, a public-private partnership, offers maker space and co-working options.
“Our mission as a charity is to make the world a better place,” Dr. Comerford said. “We do that through our graduates.”
Jake Bame: Owner of The Noble Baron Gentleman Barbers in New Albany and Co-founder of SiliconHeartland.com
As a barber in New Albany, Bame first began hearing about high-tech businesses coming to the area in 2017. He explored possible names to market the new businesses in the area and landed on “Silicon Heartland.”
As companies, including Facebook and Google, began to move into New Albany, Bame would hashtag “Silicon Heartland” when sharing the news on social media.
As a few years ticked off, he admits questioning the branding choice and at one point released rights to the domain name, SiliconHeartland.com. Two months later, he had another change of heart and once again secured the rights. It was a prescient decision that would be rewarded when Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger spoke at the groundbreaking for the $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing plant in September 2022. “Ultimately, that’s the phrase Pat used at the Intel announcement,” Bame said.
He acknowledged how the City of New Albany has changed since he first opened the Noble Baron 12 years ago. As an entrepreneur, he didn’t know then how to get a “seat at the table.” He hopes to change that for other small business owners by providing resources through SiliconHeartland.com that will help them to develop and prosper.