By Thea Ewing
Published in This Week Community News
It was about this time last year when speculation started around a big economic development investment being considered in the region. By January, we learned that we had landed a whale in the announcement that Intel planned to locate a semiconductor plant in Licking County. Now, at the end of 2022, Hyperion, Honda, and others also have announced plans to grow their operations, adding more jobs in Central Ohio.
Generally, Central Ohioans are both excited and concerned about the prospects of this growth – a contrast stemming from the realization that the opportunity also brings with it the reality that there is a lot to do to maximize the potential of this investment. Where will new residents live? How will they get to work? Will our commute take longer with the increased population? Many decisions and dollars hang on the answers to these questions and failure to address them is not an option.
To own a future that all can appreciate we must consider that this opportunity will require us to take bold steps. Many of these opportunities are falling into place, like workforce alignment and investment in key infrastructure. However, we will need to address the housing crisis and the need for additional regional transit options. Central Ohio must also focus on improving existing transit and the main thoroughfares to accommodate the new residents that development will bring. Additionally, mobility and accessibility are integral for all commuters, not just for those who work at Intel. Solutions, such as Amtrak, are back on the table as we explore connectivity beyond Central Ohio for long-distance travelers and commuters.
As a growing midwestern hub of the transportation-automotive sector, an industry that is leaning into new technologies to keep our air clean, limit our dependence on fossil fuels, and create safer streets, it’s important that we embrace real life examples of the environment that our product will operate in, here at home.
This means the creation of a variety of housing opportunities at all price points to accommodate the growing workforce. Easily accessible electric vehicle charging stations will be universal. Urban neighborhoods and suburban corridors will be complete streets built for motorists, transit, bikes, and people walking to leverage all types of vehicles, with safety sensors being deployed by the industry. A community that embraces renewable energy generation is also one that supports this industry.
MORPC is planning to ensure Central Ohio is the community serving its citizens and reflecting the industry well. As we continue to advance projects to rise to this once-in-a-generation opportunity, we must be a region ready to lead, supporting the burgeoning industrial hub and maintaining the quality of life that is built here in our region.
Thea Ewing is the Chief Regional Development Officer & Senior Director of Programming at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. MORPC’s purpose is to bring communities of all sizes and interests together to collaborate on best practices and plans for the future of the region.