Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – Local officials presented the Circleville Revitalization Plan on Friday that was entered this week for the America’s Best Communities contest.
The plan serves as more than just a contest entry, however. According to Ryan Scribner, economic development director of Pickaway Progress Partnership (P3), it also serves as a living document that can be used now to help the city grow over the next 15 years.
The 82-page document details Circleville’s vision of becoming a “top micro-politan center in the midwest by strengthening and diversifying its economic base, attracting high-wage jobs and growing the city’s population.” Click on the photo of the plan’s cover (right) to view the document online.
David Robinson, representative of the Montrose Group that helped develop the plan, briefly outlined it at a presentation held Friday at the Pickaway County District Public Library.
Specifically, the plan details four big objectives the city expects to meet by 2030, including doubling its number of college graduates; increasing population by 25 percent; cutting the poverty rate in half; and increasing its per capita income from $20,453 to $30,000.
Robinson said the group performed an industry cluster analysis, identifying Circleville as a region with a strong base and great future in manufacturing. It also studied the area’s unique labor market to gauge the local workforce. In addition, it performed a SWOT analysis, which defined Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for economic development in the city.
With those studies and other factors, he said, the development team devised a 10-step action plan, some of which would require the funding from winning the America’s Best Communities contest, but others would not.
The steps in Stage One include items that would require winning the ABC contest. They are:
1. Circleville Promise: A $1 million grant from the ABC award would be matched by $1 million in local contributions to create a $2 million college scholarship fund for Circleville High School students to attend and graduate from college.
2. Circleville Housing Partnership: This partnership would implement a strategy to attract major, single-family homebuilders to Circleville and recruit new home buyers to the area.
3. Circleville Fiber Ring: A $1.5 million project would bring benefits of high-speed data service to the businesses located in the city of Circleville.
The following steps in Stage Two of the plan would not require winning the ABC contest. They are:
4. Circleville Energy Center: This would be a 200-acre industrial park developed by P3 with the goal of attracting manufacturers to the city and county by tapping into cheap energy available in the region through the placement of natural gas pipelines.
5. Circleville Works: The $5 million program would develop a direct link to job centers in Franklin County in partnership with the COTA bus system, along with an occupational marketing campaign and workforce development program in partnership with Ohio Christian University, Southern State Community College and Circleville City Schools.
6. South Bloomfield By-Pass: A $60 million project would implement an Ohio Department of Transportation study to create a more direct route between Circleville and important Ohio job centers at Rickenbacker and downtown Columbus.
7. Downtown Circleville: Several specific improvements to downtown Circleville have been defined, including railroad grade separation on Route 22 entering the city; incentives to all new retail, residential and officer real property investments; creation of a Special Improvement District (SID) in partnership with downtown merchants; a Circleville Growth Fund to focus on providing capital to small businesses and entrepreneurs; and possible “road diets” that would slow traffic and create a safer, more vibrant sidewalk and storefront experience.
8. Tech Circleville: A $5 million plan for the operation of the Southern Gateway Economic Innovation Development Center at OCU to build programming geared toward the development of high-tech companies and early stage start-ups to support the center.
9. Scioto River Valley Bikeway: A $50 million project would develop a bikeway to connect Columbus to Portsmouth with a professional, racing-quality, standard bike path with connection in Circleville and other cities along the path.
10. Circleville Market Strategy to Support Targeted Cluster Strategy: This would continue to implement a comprehensive community marketing campaign designed to maintain and develop high-wage jobs in the region.
Mayor Don McIlroy said he is happy to see the collaborative efforts between the city and county over the past four years now coming to fruition, not only with the America’s Best Communities competition, but also recent announcements of new businesses like Woda, Chancellor Health and Sofidel Group coming into the area.
“People are starting to recognize this is a great county and a great city to live in,” McIlroy said. “So many things are happening, and this community is blessed.”
The Montrose Group was hired as a consultant for the revitalization plan with the $50,000 in grant money the city earned by being named as a quarter-finalist in the America’s Best Communities contest.
In early 2016, 15 semi-finalists will be selected to attend the America’s Best Communities summit to present their strategies. Eight finalists then will be awarded $100,000 to continue implementation of their plans.
The top three competition winners will be announced in April of 2017, with $3 million awarded for first place, $2 million for second place and $1 million for third place.
IBEX Global serves as the city’s mentor company for the contest.
A core group of local leaders also worked to develop the plan, including Scribner and McIlroy, along with Amy Elsea, president of the Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce; Kirk McMahon, superintendent of Circleville City Schools; John Ankrom, city service director; Dr. Mark Smith, president of Ohio Christian University; Tim Colburn, CEO of Berger Health System; Stacey Sark representing P3; and Chad Davie, a consultant for P3.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal