The first official meeting of the West Licking County Cooperative on June 23 at Pataskala City Hall generated plenty of talk of camaraderie and even the idea for a new community improvement corporation.
The co-op is an informal partnership among the city of Pataskala; Harrison, Jersey and Etna townships; the village of Kirkersville; and potentially the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District.
The June 23 meeting was attended by representatives of every partner except Kirkersville. Dean Ramsey from the West Licking Historical Society and Pataskala Banking Co. President Chuck Dixon, who also is chairman of the Pataskala Area Chamber of Commerce's economic-development committee, attended, as well.
"I think it went very well. It was all very good," said Pataskala Mayor Mike Compton.
Compton said he anticipates the co-op would continue to meet on a quarterly basis in various locations.
Compton said co-op members discussed many road projects and how they could share services.
"Cooperation and collaboration among the entities is important," said Don Rector, general manager of the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District, after the meeting. "I talked about all the ways we currently share services across a number of jurisdictions. Mutual aid in the water and sewer industry is never a concern. Water and sewer operators not only know their inventory but they also know all of their neighbors in the event of an emergency.
"The foundations of cooperation are present. My message was the need to find those foundations in all aspects and build on those."
However, Compton said, the most significant outcome of the first meeting was talk of a possible western Licking County community improvement corporation.
"We could do our own economic development in Western Licking County," said Harrison Township Trustee Mark Van Buren.
A CIC typically is defined as a nonprofit organization established to promote industrial, economic, commercial and civic development in a certain community or region.
A CIC would afford co-op members with more control in regional economic development and possibly improved ability to create public spaces, such as parks and trail systems, according to the cooperative partners.
"The growth out here is unreal," said Rob Platte, Etna Township administrator, who proposed the idea of a regional CIC. "It's been something in the back of my mind for a while," he said.
Platte said Western Licking County entities have felt like they lack the support they need to promote economic development in western Licking County specifically, even though the county already has the Grow Licking County CIC.
With its own CIC, Platte said, the Western Licking County Cooperative could form a board of directors comprising local business leaders, government officials and members of private organizations, such as the West Licking Historical Society.
"It seems well-received and supported," Platte said.
Dan Evers, economic development for the Grow Licking County CIC, said he wasn't familiar enough with what the West Licking County Cooperative partners have in mind to know how a CIC specific to them would mesh with the countywide CIC.
Compton emphasized that a Western Licking County CIC remains in the discussion phase and no official action has been taken.
Van Buren said the co-op most likely would meet again in September or October. Compton said Etna Township would likely host the meeting.