Kettering leader sees growth in jobs, quality of life issues

The city is in a good spot — literally and figuratively — because of recent business growth and because of location in a diverse county, according to Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman.

Schwieterman believes the region as a whole has improved, both in a business sense and in quality of life matters.

“We have 56,000 residents, several businesses — and some large businesses,” he said of Kettering. “We have some businesses that have over 3,000 employees, and that is what’s great about this region.”

Dayton as the county core and Kettering as the next-largest city have much to offer, and Schwieterman cited benefits of other communities, from Centerville to the smaller cities such as Oakwood and Moraine.

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“So you have choices in this region,” Schwieterman said. “You can live in a small area or live in a pretty good-size city like Kettering or live in the urban setting of Dayton.”

Several multi-million dollar projects have transformed what the Kettering community will look like for years to come, city officials said.

Those projects are designed to improve infrastructure, spark business development, aid public service and benefit education.

Kettering Economic Development Manager Gregg Gorsuch said recent growth in the Kettering Business Park — involving companies like Amazon, Synchrony Financial and Alternate Solutions Health Network — has helped spur economic growth.

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A planned Amazon “last-mile” distribution center is projected to bring several hundred jobs to the business park, Gorsuch said.

Also, the Wilmington Pike corridor is growing with new business development after the city invested millions of dollars to infrastructure improvements in the area.

And Tenneco will nearly double its Kettering workforce, adding 300 jobs as part of a $61.5 million investment that significantly expands the plant as company officials first announced in October.

“Obviously, I think that the economic development has been good and there have been plenty of positive stories in Kettering and around the region in terms of growth,” Schwieterman said. “It is not always going to be good, and it’s not always going to be bad. Right now, I think we are in a good spot.”

One of the biggest concerns he sees is how to develop a workforce to handle the growth in business.

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“Making sure that as we recruit and retain jobs in the community that we have people to fulfill those jobs,” Schwieterman said. “Again, that is what’s good about this region. When you have people like Sinclair and the Job Center and the Dayton Development Coalition — all of those folks pulling on the same rope working together to create the workforce and supply the workforce for new jobs — then I think we are doing well, and I am not pessimistic at all.”

But it is not just business is making a difference in Kettering, city leaders noted.

The Wilmington-Stroop Branch of the Dayton Metro Library celebrates its grand opening from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, with a ribbon cutting and sneak preview for the public. The project is one of 16 facilities that are in the library’s $187 million construction and upgrade plan.

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City officials have approved additional funding for two bridge replacement projects that will include public art installations and have a combined cost of more than $5 million. Kettering will replace the Ridgeway Road Bridge and the Schantz Avenue Bridge over South Dixie Highway.

Last year, the $5.3 million performing arts center at Alter High School opened. The new building features a 236-seat theatre, an art gallery and classroom, a two-story band and music room, a dance studio, and many other amenities, according to Amy Miller, director of marketing and communications for Alter.

Kettering City Schools recently added a fire science career program for students and opened a multimillion-dollar high school auditorium. The district will break ground in the coming weeks on additions at three schools, to accommodate all-day kindergarten districtwide and add cosmetology and medical assisting career programs at the high school.

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Elizabeth Whitaker, senior planner with the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, addressed Kettering officials about the importance of the upcoming census and how it can affect economic growth.

The latest Census estimate for the city of Dayton was 140,640 for 2018, up more than 200 residents, from 140,416 in 2017.

Montgomery County was estimated to have 532,331 residents in 2018, up slightly from 531,669 residents the year before, according to new Census estimates released this week.

“It is very important to participate in the upcoming 2020 census count,” Whitaker said. “An inaccurate count can cost your community resources. So, for 2015 each missed person from the previous Census represented a fiscal loss to the State of Ohio of more than $1,200.”

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Whitaker said she’s been told that $1,200 is not a compelling number, but when you think about it in a bigger context it is a big number.

“We live with our census outcomes for 10 years,” she said. “So, you can take that $1,200 and times it by 10 and that is on a per-person-basis.”

Ohio has roughly 11 million people, so if there is just one percent of the population missed in the count, the impact is exponentially worse.

“You can really start to see the impact on what that has in the state, but also what comes back to our local communities,” Whitaker said, noting that there are more than 300 federal programs that use Census derived statistics to allocate funding.

Overall, Kettering has a solid rate of Census participation, according to Whitaker.

“You are in a relatively good position compared to other communities in Montgomery County,” Whitaker said to city officials.

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