Rural Charm and Economic Opportunity
Coshocton Port Authority Economic Development
Coshocton, Ohio delivers rural charm and a laid-back lifestyle as well as great business opportunities. “Coshocton offers a quality of life that is second to none with the charm and appeal of a quaint, but surprisingly robust, little community,” says Dorothy Skowrunski, Executive Director of Coshocton Port Authority.
“How about no long commute or traffic jams? Low crime rate? Friendly caring neighbors? Peaceful environment and a real sense of community?” And that is only the beginning. “Coshocton has a reasonable cost of living, wonderful healthcare facilities, artistic and cultural appeal, exceptional schools, great restaurants and superb recreational choices for you and your family. Add to this a sense of history and a feel of connectedness, and you have that perfect home,” shares Mr. Skowrunski.
“Once you have lived in a rural setting you can never go back to a city,” she adds. “You have everything you need here.” This includes a wealth of business opportunities. The County has a long history as a regional center for commerce due to its ideal location at the convergence of three rivers. Two of these waterways come together to form the Muskingum River, which leads to the Ohio River and on to the Gulf of Mexico, creating shipping opportunities as well as an abundance of water resources. “Thanks to this abundance of waterways in Coshocton, we have access to over 10 million gallons of water a day,” Ms. Skowrunski reports. “Our Water Plant is rated at 15 Million Gallons per Day (MGD) – we currently use approximately 6 MGD. Our Wastewater Plant is rated at 4.4 MGD – we currently use approximately 1.5 MGD.”
Local businesses also benefit from the County’s easy access to surrounding cities. The community is situated along the State Route 16/US Route 36 corridor, midway between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Columbus, Ohio and within a 15-minute drive of I-77 and 30 minutes of I-70. In addition, Ohio Central Railroad operates a short-line with access to CSX and Norfolk-Southern lines within the community, and the county’s Richard Downing Airport boasts a 5,000-foot runway capable of handling corporate jets.
Coshocton’s central location and abundance of water makes it an ideal fit for a number of industries. Agriculture thrives in the community and the County has more than 171,000 acres dedicated to farming, yielding annual cash receipts of approximately $56 million in grain production, livestock, poultry, dairy, hay, ornamentals, and vegetable crops. “Over 1,000 full and part time farmers contribute to the local agriculture economy with an average of some $55,000 per farm in gross sales,” says Ms. Skowrunski. “Agriculture is a mainstay to the social fabric of the community and makes a significant contribution to the economic growth and prosperity of Coshocton County. Preservation of prime farmland is a primary goal that has been studied and depicted in both the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Economic Development Task Force Report.”
Food processing is a natural fit for the farming community. The best-known local food processer is Kraft/Heinz Company, which operates a sizable Oscar Mayer bacon manufacturing and distribution facility in Coshocton.
Tourism is also a major local industry, responsible for one in every 12 salaried jobs and generating direct and indirect business sales of over $42 million annually. One of the largest draws is Historic Roscoe Village, which was once a bustling port along the Ohio and Erie Canal. “Now it is a top Ohio tourist destination and one of the region’s most beautiful areas to visit,” says Ms. Skowrunski. “It boasts delightful shops, beautiful gardens, historic restaurants, living history tours, canal boat rides and historical exhibits of this restored canal town.” Indeed, Coshocton was named ‘one of the top 100 towns to visit’ by Midwest Living Magazine in both 2009 and 2010, and has been recognized as one of Ohio’s BEST Hometowns for 2015-2016 by Ohio Magazine.
Hunting also draws visitors to the community. “Hunters and wildlife enthusiasts know that Coshocton County regularly leads the state in attracting white tail deer hunters seeking their fortunes at bagging their ‘trophy buck,’” Ms. Skowrunski reports. “For all seasons – bow, gun and muzzle-loader – Coshocton consistently ranks in the top three spots in Ohio.”
The county is also well suited to the power generation sector. “Coshocton County is an ideal home for AEP Ohio [American Electric Power Ohio] facilities. From a logistical perspective, Coshocton County is in a great location because of its ample water supply, accessibility to nearby coal reserves, close proximity to multiple modes of transportation and it is well-positioned within our Ohio service territory.”
Manufacturers benefit from these attributes as well. For instance, customer chemical manufacturer Organic Technologies operates two facilities in Coshocton, successfully growing from a small research and sales operation to a custom manufacturer with a wide portfolio of products and services in the food ingredient, pharmaceutical, and nutraceutical markets. “Their business is primarily with clients outside the state of Ohio, increasingly exporting unique products to Europe, India, South Korea, China, and Japan,” Ms. Skowrunski details. “The local airport’s facilities, especially the runway extension to 5,000 feet, ensures that their clients can easily pay a visit for face-to-face meetings and negotiations well into the future.”
Annin Flagmakers, the oldest and largest US Flag manufacturer in the world, is another notable local manufacturer. Other Coshocton based businesses include AK Steel, Buckeye Fabric Finishing Co., Coshocton Grain Co., Excello Fabric Finishing Co., Jones Metal Products, Jones-Zylon, MFM Building Products, Novelty Advertising Co., SanCasT Inc., Yankee Wire Cloth Products, Three Rivers Energy-Ethanol, American Electric Power, and McWane Water Systems.
These companies can count on plenty of support to keep their businesses going strong. For instance, there is an established enterprise zone throughout Coshocton County that allows real and personal property tax exemptions, as well as a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) in a portion of the downtown commercial business district that allows property tax exemptions for certain investments. In addition, Ohio Means Jobs – the County’s Department of Job and Family Services – provides important workforce development services including pre-employment screenings and certifications.
The Coshocton Port Authority (CPA) is an economic development resource center connecting business, industry, finance, government and education in order to promote growth and prosperity. “I like to say we are the agency that connects the dots,” Ms. Skowrunski says. Specific services include a range of initiatives that have a positive effect on job creation and retention, workforce development, education, transportation and health care for the residents of Coshocton County.
As a port authority, the CPA is uniquely situated to offer in-depth support. “The State of Ohio’s port authorities have special status that allows them to contribute to large-scale economic development projects through both public and private financing,” Ms. Skowrunski explains. “Ohio law provides for port authorities to construct facilities, issue bonds, make loans, and sell or buy real and personal property. Port authorities also possess many powers similar to other local governments in Ohio.”
The CPA has made remarkable progress over the last few years. In 2015, the team worked with Kraft Foods to double the size of its local bacon plant and add 300 jobs. The CPA was also the lead agency for several EPA initiatives, managing petroleum and hazardous assessment projects and phase I and II EPA assessments, including two located at large, heavy manufacturing sites. The organization is currently in the middle of a $1 million cleanup project.
Perhaps most notably, the CPA recently headed up an $800,000 county road improvement project, ensuring that Amish craftsmen can safely transport delicate, handcrafted furniture. The team utilized out of the box tactics to fund the project. “We approached this as an economic development project,” Ms. Skowrunski explains. “There are 63 companies in this corner of our county employing over 300 employees. And when they are building the finest handcrafted furniture in the United States, and they put it on a truck and go down that county road and it is not in great shape when it gets to the end of that county road, then we’ve got an economic development issue.”
The team was able to pull dollars from the Ohio Department of Transportation, Governor’s Office of Appalachia, and Jobs Ohio. In addition, the affected businesses contributed over $170,000 of their own funds for the project. “There were a lot of entities that came together to make that $800,000 project a reality. We really pulled all the pieces together to do that. No one in the state of Ohio has ever done a project like this before and we really got a lot of recognition for doing it.”
The CPA – and the community at large – is eager to continue strengthening the local business environment. Several industries show particular promise for increased growth, including food processing, furniture, and plastics manufacturing. The community is also keeping a close eye on the development of the oil & gas industry within the region and the potential there. Already blessed with a diverse business sector – in addition to a welcoming, rural lifestyle – Coshocton County has everything in place to continue going from strength to strength.