Sunday, February 27, 2022

Intel Amongst Us: We All Play a Part in Welcoming $20 Billion Investment

“What’s the blue light special?”

As an economic development guy, I was horrified at the thought of all that could go wrong.  Walmart executives, lacking a local Walmart store to stop at in Steubenville in 2001, went to the local Kmart to get the feel for the workforce and community.  They asked one worker to explain this technique for sparking impulse buying among Kmart shoppers

It was as if the fate of hundreds of jobs in Eastern Ohio rested in the hands of one person.  That’s because it did.

I witnessed as the gentleman was respectful and more than happy to explain.  He did a great job.  Little did he know what role he played and, if he had had a bad day or behaved differently, how he could have turned the story for the worse.

Three months later, the community would receive the incredible economic news that a new $75 million Walmart Food Distribution Center would be built.  Today, it’s the largest economic base employer with 800 employees in Jefferson County, Ohio.

It’s always been my personal example of how everyone in the community has a role in economic development.  Everyone.

I have some new stories on the heels of this recent Intel announcement. Intel is amongst us. 

A visitor to a local museum questioned his host about natural sites and the history of Licking County.  After the Intel announcement went off last month, the host connected the dots.  The visitor was identified as working with Intel and have Licking County connections.

The informal tour and chance encounter could have been a turning point.

Just a few days into the new year, a big bus stopped at the Midland Theater and other venues in Newark.  Mine was the only local, familiar face.  No names were shared.  No corporate wear was spotted.  No business cards were handed out.  I’m sure many wondered what was going on.  The bus was the event crew for Intel and state officials scouting out locations for a then-upcoming announcement. 

Though the deal was a done deal, the announcement venue was certainly not decided.  All local stops showed the sort of capability that has long been our county’s mantra—big enough to have the resources, yet small enough to care about one company at a time.

The rest, as they say, is history.  The Midland and Newark will be forever associated with Intel and the day Ohio’s largest economic development project ever was announced.

What happened between June and January that could have been our local equivalent of the blue light special quiz?  A shopper at Granville Milling in Johnstown.  A pet owner at the Kennel Club in Jersey Township.  Hikers at Blackhand Gorge.  Guests at Cherry Valley Hotel.  There have been numerous past encounters that could have been the turning point too. 

There will be more in the future. 

The role we all play in economic development will continue.  The community has the opportunity to capitalize on the $20 billion Intel news, gain on Intel’s plans to grow their investment to $100 billion, and attract supplier facilities.  It will take all of us.


This development column is a regular column in The Advocate.

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