The week of May 8-12 is officially Economic Development Week, coordinated through the International Economic Development Council. We celebrate the week this year by honoring Dan Evers’ work to strengthen development in Clinton County. One of Dan’s sayings was that economic development can be done either with a “compass or a catcher’s mitt.” Essentially, you can prepare and be strategic, or you can just react and receive whatever comes at you.
The Clinton County Port Authority, through our continued work to revitalize the Wilmington Air Park, and our role as the economic development agent for all of Clinton County, works every day to retain and expand our existing employment base, encourage new companies to locate in the county, foster new tenants at the Air Park, and create an environment of entrepreneurship. These are the outcomes we judge ourselves on and are the hopeful results of our work.
But what goes into those outcomes is a continuous practice of preparation for economic opportunities. This means investigating and preparing for infrastructure to meet the needs of current and future residential and commercial development. It also means pursuing industrial site leads with our statewide partners as well as trouble-shooting concerns of our existing businesses. We’re assisting efforts to reduce barriers to work through the Clinton County Workforce Collaborative. And we’re focusing Port Authority resources at strategic development locations, like the Air Park, downtown Wilmington, and our interstate gateways at Route 68 and Route 73.
We do this work as a result of a first principle, that economic growth locally can assist all of our residents and co-workers to live a more fruitful and prosperous life.
If we think back on our historic foundations throughout different eras of growth and development, Clinton County would be a much different place if it weren’t for significant economic investments. The development of the original Air Base and its several phoenix-like resurrections, or the founding and growth of Wilmington College, as well as the strategic decision-making of local companies, like Ferno Washington, to consolidate its operations so many years ago and make Wilmington, Ohio, its headquarters; all of these decisions and investments are critical to making Clinton County a place of opportunity for the people who live here and those in the next generations that will call it home.
We may very well see future opportunities like those I just mentioned, and it depends on our county and community being prepared to seize them. Just for a moment, reflect and ask, if a major economic asset like the Air Park, home to so many thousands of jobs for ourselves and our regional neighbors for the past 80 years, were not already here and that land was still undeveloped fields, how would we react to a potential investment plan that would build it here? Would we be prepared to accommodate it? Would we be accepting of it? Would we work to be a good neighbor and make it the right fit for our community?
That’s why it is so important to not only prepare for growth and economic development but also to plan and reflect on it. It is another way of looking at Dan’s saying. The compass is the preferred tool, when we want to get our bearings; but which direction do we actually want to go, that is the next step. The economic development team at the Clinton County Port Authority is dedicated to the stewardship of our existing economic legacy and the work of those like Dan who left us too soon. But we also seek to plan for the future, preferring to be deliberate about our expectations of a better tomorrow, and what it will take to get there. We hope you will share in that quest. Please reach out if you do.
T. Alex Beres is the executive director of the Clinton County Port Authority.