MANSFIELD — Simply gathering in person was a treat for those in attendance at the annual Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development dinner at the Mid-Ohio Conference Center on Wednesday night.
Jodie Perry, president and CEO of Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development, was the first to note that refreshing change after two years meeting remotely via zoom, online, swapping text messages and email. Numerous others who followed her to the podium echoed that sentiment.
And yet the business of Richland County business didn’t stop despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since 2020, we have all certainly learned how to pivot to meet the ever-changing needs of our business community,” Perry said. “I believe our community is stronger than ever and I look forward to the future.”
Perry ticked off some impressive accomplishments to bolster that claim.
In the past year, the chamber conducted 38 ribbon cuttings and was involved with 26 events that a combined 2,000 people attended. The chamber has 80 new members and a total of 969 total members. Small Business Saturday included 79 local businesses with 668 visitors supporting them.
Richland County was also ranked seventh nationally for significant economic projects per capita among areas with a population less than 200,000.
Perry also noted the assignment of the new 179th Cyber Warfare Wing at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport.
“It was a bittersweet win in losing those (C-130) planes,” Perry noted. “But this was important in protecting our jobs.”
Facing the potential loss of the base, the community rallied to support the bid to become a Cyber Warfare Wing. Switching missions helps the base “live to fight another day.”
This project is expected to increase the technology talent available in Richland County, too.
A couple of expansions and a new spec building are also bubbling in the local economy.
The $16 million Edge Plastics expansion will enhance the company’s footprint at its Newman Street facility. Plans call for new equipment for automation and robots. Newman employs 150 people and could add up to 67 new jobs and more than $2.3 million in new payroll.
Major Metals is expanding in Bellville, too. The welded steel tubing company recently completed a 48,000 square-foot building to house a new tube mill that will increase efficiency and total capacity. The expansion will create 16 new jobs with a total of $800,000 in new payroll.
Adena’s Airport West spec building should attract more business to the area as well. This 160,000 square-foot facility features 32-foot clear ceilings and 17 truck docks.
“Despite the uncertainty, it was our busiest year of economic development ever,” Perry said. “I know that 2022 will bring even more new opportunities for our community, and a new strategic plan for our organization.
“I’m proud of where we are and excited for where we are heading. Onward!”