The latest edition of www.areadevelopment.com talks about issues of shovel ready sites, quality of life and the comeback of eastern Ohio, based on the Marcellus Shale deposits. Even with an uncertain economic future – recession, jobs bill, European economy, etc., – there are still companies looking for shovel ready sites – sites that have infrastructure and that been vetted for development streamlining the often cumbersome public processes.
Many communities list available greenfield sites and buildings in addition to non-shovel ready sites on their websites. It may be time to for communities to ramp up their competitiveness and highlight those sites that are shovel ready on their websites. Being that the site selection process is one of culling – sorting out sites based on available information, or rather the lack of appropriate information – communities need to make a greater effort to be transparent and competitive. That can be tough in a down economy. Economic development is an investment that may require the investment of water funds, sewer funds, RLF funds and general fund dollars. By adding tax and utility information via the affordable BARC service (http://www.cdjconsulting.net/the-business-assistance-recruitment-calculator-©), communities will find themselves with a competitive edge.
Of course, quality of life and demographic information is always important. States like Ohio cannot afford to site out the recession. Greater partnerships are needed between cities and their school boards, and visa versa. It is always disheartening to see school levies being turned down. I recall being told that schools are educating tomorrow’s leaders. Loss of educational programs due to rejected school levies do not make for positive leadership lessons. They do reinforce self-centeredness. We have enough of that in the halls of congress and statehouses. Community leaders need to come together to promote schools – not just the state mandated school score – and promote their relation to the overall economic and social health of their home city, village or town.
It will be interesting to watch the impact of Marcellus Shale on the future of eastern Ohio. Oil booms seem to have a 10-30 year life cycle. These oil booms while a wonderful catalyst for economic development, they will also be a weight for and on infrastructure construction and school expansion. The quality of life of the eastern Ohio communities will certainly rise over the period of the boom. Both school boards and cities will have the politically untenable duty to budget reserve funds based on possible needs 30-40 years in the future to ensure a sustainable quality of life and not be caught in the bust cycle that followed the closing of steel and auto mills in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Taken separately, the three articles are incredibly interesting. Taken together, they are thought provoking and local government leaders need to start talking about these issues now.