MOUNT VERNON — While the county’s proximity to a major interstate is a “handicap” for drawing new manufacturing jobs into the area, there are many attributes that make Knox County attractive to potential employers.
“Roadways are our biggest problem,” Steve Waers, director of Knox County Area Development told Mount Vernon City Council members Monday during a Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. “[Manufacturers] want next to the interstate.”
Despite I-71 running to the west of Knox County, the area offers other strong demographics manufacturers look for when opting to move facilities or open new operations.
“We exceed with education, work force, quality of life, housing and zoning,” Waers said. “We are so diverse as a county. Over the past year we had a net gain of 51 full-time jobs in manufacturing.”
ADF’s cooperative efforts with Coshocton County netted 450 contacts at a cost of $20,000, which was split with Coshocton County, Waers said. After making follow-up calls to those companies, Waers said he is still in communication with eight companies that are interested in Mount Vernon and/or Knox County if they decide to move.
In addition, the railway system making its way through the industrial park is a tremendous asset to the county. Expansion of Blackjack Road and the addition of the new Sanoh America facility opens that area to more rail-accessible land and possible future land acquisition.
A new marketing campaign, aimed at site consultants, is under way, again in conjunction with Coshocton County. This $50,000 campaign will reach over 2,500 site consultants who are typically hired by companies looking to move or expand operations.
“With this campaign, Knox County will be right out in front of them,” Waers said. “We will be directly attacking them that way.”
At-Large Councilwoman Rebecca Jordan said that she and Mayor Richard Mavis met with Waers previously and thought it would be helpful for all members of council to be updated on the role ADF plays in Mount Vernon’s economic development. With that, Jordan questioned Waers’ lack of activity in recruiting retail and dining business.
Waers explained ADF works to recruit industrial manufacturing facilities to the county and the Mount Vernon/Knox County Chamber of Commerce is responsible for retail and small business growth. There is a strong relationship between ADF and the Chamber of Commerce, he said.
Currently there are four empty buildings in the county, two at Essup Park on Mount Vernon Avenue — the former Sanoh America buildings; Loma Linda on Ohio 3 north of the city and the Fabral building on the corner of Blackjack Road and Ohio 661. Waers said he believed the Fabral building is under contract but could not confirm the finality of the deal.