VOICES: Building a business-friendly environment for economic prosperity in the Miami Valley

Ohio and the Miami Valley are on the move. Through hard work, cooperation and the spirit of innovation that defines our region, we have overcome some tough economic times. A bright and prosperous future is on the horizon.

To sustain and expand our recent economic success, we must work together to support a business-friendly environment. That means investing in infrastructure and connectivity, establishing public-private partnerships, supporting workforce development, fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, collaborating with neighboring communities, and supporting projects that provide construction materials such as limestone rocks, sand, gravel, cement and concrete which are essential for economic growth. Ohio’s new capital investments in 2020 reached $30.23 billion, tripling the previous record of $9.56 billion set in 2017. This impressive accomplishment positions Ohio as the third highest state nationwide in terms of capital investment, which is especially noteworthy given that it is the 7th largest state.

According to the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Dayton area has seen a positive shift in its economic landscape over the past ten years. This includes a 4.9% growth in employment, a 3.4% decrease in joblessness, a 25.5% rise in per capita earnings, and a 19.7% increase in median household incomes. These changes mark a significant turnaround from the previous decade (2001-2011), during which the region faced annual job losses and a staggering 32% decline in employment within key sectors like manufacturing.

While recent data points to a resurgence in the regional economy, some concerns persist. The Dayton region’s per capita income continues to trail state and national figures for the same period. Additionally, the area’s population growth rate of 2.5% over the past decade is below the national average and insufficient to meet the demands of new job opportunities, leading to a pressing labor shortage.

To attract businesses to a community, local governments should streamline permitting and licensing processes, offer responsible incentives and financial support, invest in infrastructure and connectivity, establish public-private partnerships, support workforce development, foster a culture of entrepreneurship, market and promote the community, engage the community, prioritize sustainability and quality of life, and collaborate with neighboring communities to create a larger, more attractive market.

It’s also important to support projects that provide the raw materials needed to drive economic growth. For example, here in the Miami Valley we are fortunate to be on top of vast limestone reserves that several quarry operators have safely and responsibly tapped into for more than a century to provide the aggregate building materials that literally built our communities. A looming shortage of these materials could derail our economic growth. Being business friendly means supporting limestone extraction operations, cement and concrete production, and other construction materials industries. It also means supporting the trucking and rail operations that are critical for getting these materials to market.

From the new Intel facilities going up in New Albany to the Honda battery plant planned for Jeffersonville, to Amazon Web Services data centers in Hilliard and Dublin, exciting development is planned or underway throughout Central Ohio. As Gov. Mike DeWine said in his 2023 State of the State address: “We want ALL regions of the State to participate in Ohio’s economic revival -- and for all Ohioans to prosper from it.”

For the Miami Valley to get our share, we will need to be collaborative, creative, resourceful and work hard to intentionally create a business-friendly environment. Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

By collaborating and engaging with communities and businesses, we can ensure that our economic success benefits everyone and that the Miami Valley continues to thrive.

Debborah Wallace is a Beavercreek Township trustee and a member of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission board of directors.

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