NEWARK — If Intel is the topic, there will be plenty of interest. That was never more apparent than in the attendance at the local leaders panel discussion Wednesday at Moundbuilders Country Club.
The Licking County Chamber of Commerce breakfast attracted 200, a record for the the local leaders events. Attendees parked on the grass and down the street by the country club. And, 25 more were on a waiting list and could not attend.
“All we have to do is add a five-letter word and we fill a room, said Rick Platt, president and CEO of the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority,
Intel plans to build two factories, called fabs, just south of Johnstown on Jersey Township land to be annexed into New Albany. It is the state's biggest economic development project. The factories will employ 3,000 workers with an average wage of $135,000.
Emily Smith, the Intel director of Ohio Public Affairs, said, "You read national stories saying what’s going on in Ohio. Well, we’re awesome, that’s what’s going on. It’s very exciting for me to say this is Intel’s first new investment in 40 years in the United States, and how cool that’s its in Ohio.”
The company announced its plans at The Midland Theatre in Newark on Jan. 21, a date Platt said will go down in Licking County history.
“They picked a state that can draw from a population base in Columbus, but they’ll be surprised how much comes from the east," Platt said. "We’re growing our manufacturing workforce, which defies what some across the country are predicting.
“It’s a bugle call to parents that manufacturers do have a place. It’s something we all need to take advantage of. Instead of fighting for a piece of the pie. Let’s grow the pie.”
The May unemployment rate in Licking County tied the all-time low of 2.7%, There was a record 90,300 Licking Countians employed in May and the labor force was 92,900, just 100 shy of the record set in March. There were 2,500 unemployed.
So there will be more available jobs here than unemployed. That maybe the situation already.
“Workforce has been a major concern for a lot employers in our county for quite some time, so this is not a new topic of interest," said Alexis Fitzsimmons, executive director of Grow Licking County.
FItzsimmons said Licking County Works, a committee within Grow Licking County, works with partners in the county to create and maintain an environment that promotes a pipeline of workers educated here and staying here to work in manufacturing, healthcare, IT and logistics/distribution.
“Manufacturing has a generational history in Licking County," Fitzsimmons said. "The breadth of diversity of manufacturing in our county is what provides a resiliency to our economy that allows us to go through some of the harder times in a better situation than some other counties do and some other areas of our country. We want to support that.”
Grow Licking County is also creating workforce videos of young people who’ve gone through its workforce development programs talking about the program and how it helped them. The videos will be shown to other youth to show they don’t have to leave Licking County to find opportunity.
Fitzsimmons said Licking County will adjust for Intel, but the adjustments are not as big as some may think.
“We have very little modifying to do," Fitzsimmons said. "We are very well-prepared as a county to meet the demands of training and the workforce demands that Intel has. We have these things in place currently. They may take a little tweaking, but we have in place currently is really a great model.”
Grow Licking County is also partnering with the Licking County Commissioners and LCATS on a 10-month water and sewer study of the 14 systems operating in Licking County to determine what investments need to be made and where.
Jennifer Roberts, executive director of the Thomas J. Evans Foundation, said the foundation is helping provide a public-private partnership to create a countywide visioning plan for Intel.
“Much of that work is taking place in silos," Roberts said. "It’s important to evaluate what we as a county want. We need to do a little bit of catchup. There’s so much activity happening, we thought it was important to pull these groups together. Our goal is in 5 to 10 years we can all say we’re proud to live in Licking County.”
Intel has urged Congress to pass a $52 billion aid package called the Chips Act for the semiconductor industry, saying its plans are dependent on the aid.
Ted Geer, the One Columbus program manager, said the Chips Act has been stalled in a Congressional conference committee, with the senate passing a slimmer version.
Intel announced Thursday it has delayed the July 22 groundbreaking for the Ohio facility due to the delay in passing the Chips Act.
If the Chips Act passes, the two-fab, $20 billion project could become an eight fab, $100 billion investment.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Intel means interest for Licking County business, government, residents