The Gateway to Ohio’s Scenic Wonderland
Hocking County, OH
Although this is a rural area with a population of just under 30,000, Hocking County, Ohio has an abundance of natural resources and potential, making it a great place to call home. This is where community thrives, and the county is working hard to advance, encourage and promote economic and social development from which it can continue to grow.
The city of Logan, Hocking County’s seat, was founded in 1816 by Governor Thomas Worthington. Logan celebrated its bicentennial in 2016, with a yearlong schedule of events and ended with a Bicentennial Ball on December 30. Many of these events will continue in coming years. Looking back on the past 200 years, Logan and Hocking County have much to celebrate and even more to look forward to.
At the forefront of development is the Hocking County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC). The CIC is a resource dedicated to creating economic opportunity, while marketing the region and its many assets.
The CIC was founded in 1964 but now has a renewed vision and mission in the community. “It’s been around forever,” said Joy Davis, CEcD, executive director of the CIC. “The CIC began to evolve in 2013 simply because the mayor of Logan at the time had previously worked for the State of Ohio Department of Development, and he was able to get enough understanding and cooperation from other folks to be able to say this is the direction we need to go.”
“I spent the first year and a half of my employment here cleaning up and fixing the bylaws and redoing some of the filings with the state and really working to create separation, because for so long the CIC had been treated as a subcommittee of the chamber of commerce which was not correct,” she said.
In addition to outstanding natural resources, the city of Logan and Hocking County have the advantages of fully-developed infrastructure and transportation. It also has multiple build-to-suit, lease and lease-purchase developments and investment sites available.
Hocking County enjoys an excellent quality of life that is supported by a superb education system, affordable housing, safe, family-oriented neighborhoods and multiple recreation opportunities and activities for the whole family.
When the Department of Transportation made the decision to convert US 33 into an interstate lookalike, this showed boundless promise for Hocking. By improving access to Columbus, the county became included in the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
“Our biggest asset is the fact that we are part of the Columbus MSA,” Davis emphasized. “It’s the main transportation corridor diagonally across the southeastern portion of the state. From Columbus to West Virginia, US 33 is your most direct route. Because that happened, it has significantly cut down our travel times. In forty-five minutes, you can be in downtown Columbus.”
From a transportation standpoint, Hocking County is ideally located for many industries and sectors including manufacturing, commercial and retail. It is within a day’s drive of the most populous areas of the U.S. and Canada – East Coast, New England, the Midwest, the South, and Ontario and Quebec. Highway, rail, air, and marine transport options are available for people and products.
Hocking County is home to many major manufacturers including Smead Manufacturing, Amanda Manufacturing, a GE glass plant, Keynes Brothers, and Logan Clay Products, to name a few. Each of these employers significantly contributes to the local economy.
Beyond connectivity and infrastructure, businesses interested in moving here have access to several incentives such as the Hocking County CIC Revolving Loan Fund and tax abatements that are negotiable up to one hundred percent for up to ten years.
The county is in an enterprise zone and is included in Foreign Trade Zone 138, which is administered by Rickenbacker Airport, just forty miles away. Hocking also offers a competitive tax environment, making it quite attractive to investment. This is no different for the city’s downtown.
“The downtown is in a CRA – a Community Reinvestment Area – and, of course, that benefits anyone who makes an investment in the downtown. If they have an older building, and they put a large amount of money into it to increase the value, that increased value is abated at one hundred percent for five years,” noted Davis. The Downtown Logan CRA is encouraging improvement and efforts are starting to pay off. Logan is looking forward to the opening of a new café and other exciting developments.
A company to watch is Hocking Hills Moonshine, owned and operated by the St. Clair family. Changes in prohibition-era state laws have made moonshine production legal, and Hocking County is taking full advantage of the opportunity.
“They came in looking for space, and we quickly managed to get them located and into production,” said Davis. “With further changes to in the Ohio Revised Code, if you have a distiller’s license and you open a restaurant, you can now get what is the equivalent of a bar license,” and this could mean the next stage of growth for Hocking Hills Moonshine.
“What they want to do is recreate a speakeasy, and we are hoping to be able to do that in a building that is just off the town center that is currently a manufacturing facility,” Davis explained.
“We are very early in the planning stages, but hopefully it is something we can bring to fruition and get them up and running. At the very least, they will increase their distilling capacity as part of phase one. And then phase two would be to expand into the restaurant, gift shop, tours – things like that.”
Decisions still need to be made as to the direction the CIC will take when pursuing these opportunities. “Of course, our main mission is to retain current business, attract new business and rejuvenate our manufacturing base here. That is top priority, but we are also in the process of trying to find more land for development, seeing as we only have forty acres left in our commerce park,” said Davis.
The Logan-Hocking Commerce Park is an example of a local success story. Of the original 67 acres, only forty acres remain for mixed-use development. Located adjacent to the park is the Hocking College Logan Campus, home to the Hocking College Energy Institute and its ceramic engineering, drafting and construction programs. The site is in the perfect spot for workforce development.
The county is home to a hardworking and reliable workforce, as well as a strong education network that provides workforce development and collaborates with local businesses and organizations to meet the needs of employers, both current and prospective.
Both residents and businesses are attracted to the peaceful nature of Hocking County and the quality of life that results from that. Paired with access to the services and amenities located in Columbus to the north and Athens to the south, the county provides the best of both worlds.
Natural beauty, state parks, national forests and nature preserves provide the perfect backdrop for the lifestyle enjoyed by residents. In fact, Logan is referred to as the ‘Gateway to Ohio’s Scenic Wonderland.’
Hocking County has golf, hiking, fishing, and so much more. Millions of tourists and residents are drawn to Old Man’s Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave, and Burr Oak, as well as Hocking Hills Golf Club and Urban Grille, Wild Wilderness Raceway, Old Bear Photography Center, and many other scenic outdoor activities.
Partnerships have been important to the county’s development “We still have a sense of community here,” Davis noted. “You can get to know your neighbors, and you can get involved in the community as much or as little as you want. There are several groups that are dedicated to making our community better.”
The bicentennial is a perfect illustration of community partnerships at work. “We’ve been working together since the end of 2015 especially, with the focus on the bicentennial year, and trying to come up with a vision and a plan so that we can move forward,” Davis said.
“Our goal is to have a vision for downtown Logan by the end of the year as well as a strategic plan in 2017 so we can start implementing these strategies to make that vision a reality.”
Together, the partners are working hard to decide what Logan should be. Surveys have been conducted to understand what people enjoy and what they would like to see added.
One of the immediate goals is to secure hotels in the area to support its substantial tourism base. “We need hotels here. We see between three and five million visitors a year, and basically they all stay in cabins at this point, which is fine, and people enjoy that.” Davis believes that the county would benefit from more diverse accommodations.
Hocking County CIC is also working closely with the JobsOhio Site Ohio program. JobsOhio is a private, nonprofit entity created in 2011 that performs economic development activities on behalf of the state. The Hocking County CIC impressed the consultants with the county’s potential. Hopefully, by the end of the year, the county will be one of the first sites across Ohio to be certified through the program, which would enable greater attraction efforts.
“They are now able to go to prospective companies and say, ‘We have a site for you, and we know it’s ready to go. We know there is a workforce available. We know that there is capacity to support your industry, and we’d like to show it to you,’” said Davis.
These efforts and partnerships will lead the way to a new era of growth for Hocking County, making it an even better place to call home.