County appeal — Directors seek stronger county presence

Anticipating a brighter outlook for Auglaize County’s financial future, several area economic development officials requested a substantial increase in funds from the county commissioners to promote county economic growth.
Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council (WAEDC) Executive Director Greg Myers, St. Marys Industrial and Community Development Manager Susan Crotty, New Bremen Economic Development Director Angie Hamberg and New Knoxville Village Administrator Rex Katterheinrich met with commissioners Thursday to discuss their plans and the money they would need to put their plan into place.
“We felt with the conclusion of the courthouse project, it might be time to come back to you about economic development in the area and the part the county can play,” Myers said. “We have been working as a cohesive team for four or five years. We would like to partner with the county and invest in it together.”
The budget asked for $75,350 for the development budget, including $30,000 for attracting other industry to the area and $15,000 to establish a workforce certification revolving loan fund. In contrast, the commissioners spent $15,000 on economic development last year and used another $3,339 in funds generated from enterprise zone agreements.
Commissioner Doug Spencer told the group the commissioners had already seriously been considering economic development as the courthouse project came to a close and the economic outlook continues to improve.
“We will take a look at it,” Spencer said. “We will see where we are at and what we can do.”
Spencer did not put any kind of a timeline on the course of action that the commissioners will take with the proposal, but he said it will be seriously considered.
“It’s been on our mind to start increasing this specific type of economic development,” Spencer said. “We are definitely going to take a look at this and see what we can do for the rest of this year or next year.”
Myers and a written proposal explained how the revolving loan fund would work, much like revolving loan funds operated by local entities and encouraged and permitted by the state.
The revolving loan fund would be used to assist underemployed residents in the county looking to increase their work skills. Workers could borrow up to $1,750 from the fund to obtain additional workforce certifications from an Auglaize County Economic Development Coalition (ACEDC) approved curriculum to make them more employable. After obtaining certification, loan repayment would start back within 90 days and there would be a $25 application fee.
The budget would allow for county economic development officials to take a more aggressive approach to attracting industry to the area, mainly focusing on the automotive industry and automotive suppliers. Trips to Michigan and Wisconsin were among possibilities of being planned to sell what Auglaize County had to offer to businesses looking to expand and relocate.
“That is where (the automotive industry) we seem to do well here,” Myers said.
The money would also be used for upgrading the area’s web presence, obtaining memberships in Center for Automotive Research (CAR) and Automotive Communities Partnership (ACP), and attending forums aimed at helping communities become more attractive to prospective industry.
Myers said they had been aware of recent budget restraints for all entities, including the county, and that now seemed like the time to bring their proposal to the commissioners.
“Our hope is that as sales tax revenues increase and capital expenditures diminish, resources for county investment in economic development will become available,” the group wrote in a proposal given to the commissioners. “To compete and succeed we need your help in funding an effective strategy for job growth and capital investment.”