Looking over the past nearly eight years, many things have happened in our community of which we all should be proud.

Looking over the past nearly eight years, many things have happened in our community of which we all should be proud.

The Union County Chamber of Commerce, which I have served as Chief Executive Officer, has worked closely with various organizations in promoting the growth and development of Union County. I am leaving the chamber with mixed emotions, having the excitement of a new opportunity before me, but at the same time remembering the great accomplishments and the great things to come in Union County.

It is the great leadership within the chamber board which has allowed businesses, community organizations and governmental entities to come together, uniting behind various causes. These various causes have led to various accomplishments, including:

Economic Development Action Plan. In 2002-2003, the Chamber worked closely with a consultant to develop the Union County-Marysville Economic Development Action Plan (EDAP). The EDAP planning process involved numerous meetings with Union County community and business leaders and centered on a seven-point approach (which I can still recite in my sleep) to maintain and improve the Union County economy.

The seven core components include: organizational capacity, targeting quality industries and jobs, targeting growth corridors, developing community plans, developing performance based incentives, downtown revitalization and workforce competitiveness. As a community, we have accomplished a number of the recommendations in the EDAP, including the reorganization of our economic development efforts, a detailed marketing strategy positioning the community for growth, an economic development incentive policy and a concerted effort focused on developing a quality workforce.

Plain City Downtown Plan and Community Reinvestment Areas. In 2007, the village of Plain City, Uptown Plain City Organization (UPCO) and the Union County Chamber of Commerce worked together to secure funding for the Uptown Plain City Revitalization Plan. All told, $20,000 dollars was secured from the Ohio Department of Development and from the Madison County Commissioners, enabling the village to conduct a detailed plan to revitalize Uptown Plain City. It will be completed in late 2008. Additionally, the Village Council, Plain City Business Association, Jonathan Alder School District and the Union County Chamber of Commerce worked closely together to create two Community Reinvestment Areas - Uptown Plain City and the U.S. 42 bypass - which will allow for incentives to companies planning expansion in these two areas. These two efforts have well positioned Plain City for business growth and development.

Coleman's Crossing. Over a three-year period, community leaders, developers, and organizations met over 50 times to discuss the Coleman's Crossing development. The meetings among the different stakeholders - Union County YMCA, Union County Commissioners, City of Marysville, Memorial Hospital of Union County, Children, Inc., Union County Development Disabilities Board, Community and Seasoned Citizens, Performance Automotive, Isaac Enterprises, Ohio Army National Guard and the Union County Chamber of Commerce - were fruitful, resulting in the largest commercial development in Union County. Key in all of the Coleman's Crossing development was the Honda Dealership constructed by Performance Automotive and the Ohio Armory National Guard's Training and Community Center. Without both of these projects and the City of Marys-ville's approval of a Tax Increment Financing District, Coleman's Crossing Boulevard and over 600,000 square feet of retail development would not have been a reality.

Economic Development Incentive Policy. The Economic Development Incentive Policy (EDIP) was an outcome of the EDAP involving multiple governmental units determining specific thresholds for economic development incentives. The EDIP was originally approved by Union County, City of Marysville, Village of Richwood, Marysville Exempted Village School District, North Union Local School District, and Fairbanks Local School District. Since then, the village of Plain City and the Jonathon Alder School District have signed on to the EDIP. With the EDIP in place, our county is more prepared to offer a business like approach in approving incentives for companies looking to expand. Additionally, the EDIP includes minimum thresholds for job creation, payroll and investment and a policy which discourages the use of incentives for business relocation within Union County.

Creation of the Union County Economic Development Partnership. Soon after the completion of the EDAP, the chamber moved to create a public/private partnership to support economic development called the Union County Economic Development Partnership. Prior to 2003, funding for the economic development efforts in Union County was provided entirely from the public sector. Since 2003, the chamber has enlisted 15 new investors which now provide 35% of the funding for economic development lessening the dependence on the public sector. The beauty of the Union County Economic Development Partnership is that both public and private sector leaders sit together and work to decide how our community will grow in the future.

Job Ready Site Grant and Other Grants. In 2006, the city of Marysville received an Ohio Job Ready Site (JRS) $3,568,000 grant, the largest such grant award in the community's history. The grant award was made possible by the hard work of the city staff and a unique partnership with the property owners and their real estate broker. The property owner agreed to cover the expenses of drafting the grant and performing necessary studies while the city staff and broker agreed to provide staff assistance and guide the grant request through the process.

Out of 17 grant awards, the Marysville grant award was the second highest JRS grant in Ohio. Since 2002, the chamber has initiated or been involved with grants totaling nearly $4,400,000. These have been received by various entities, including Jerome Township, city of Marysville, village of Plain City, village of Richwood, Union County and the Uptown Renewal Team. Additionally, another nearly $10,000,000 has been leveraged by these jurisdictions in order to receive the grant monies.

Support Our Troops Rally and Beightler Historical Marker. Soon after the terrorist attacks on our country in 2001, the community came together wearing red, white and blue and showing their pride to be Americans. Over 600 people attended one of the events, holding hands, praying and showing support for our troops who were protecting our country. This great pride and love for country is why Union County is such a great place to live and work. In 2007, the Union County Chamber of Commerce and Marysville Uptown Renewal worked with various organizations, including the city of Marysville, Veterans of Foreign War, American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans to secure funds and erect an historical marker at Fifth and Main Streets in Uptown Marysville, honoring one of the greatest National Guard Generals of all time - Robert Sprague Beightler. We will forever know that Fifth Street has been given the honorary name of "General Robert Sprague Beightler Way."

Richwood Industrial Park. In 2000, the village of Richwood took a major risk in purchasing 23 acres of land just south of Tawa Road in order to construct its first industrial park. When I arrived in 2001, a number of people in our community were saying that it was unlikely to attract new industrial businesses to Richwood. However, the village, Union County Commissioners, Union County Engineer and the Union County Chamber of Commerce teamed up and began an aggressive attraction program. As a result of these efforts, a new industrial roadway was constructed and one business has opened, one business is under construction and another property is now being sold to new company. When construction is completed and the final two businesses are open, 100 plus jobs, over $4,000,000 in private investment, and over $700,000 in public infrastructure will make up the first phase of the Richwood Industrial Park. This would not have been possible with the great partnership between the village of Richwood, Union County and the Ohio Department of Development.

It is hard to provide a complete capsule of all of the great accomplishments achieved by so many in our community these past few years. But, I can honestly say, from my perspective that the biggest highlight has to be seeing the committed leadership provided by our business and community leaders. They have provided the foundation for making things happen and for ensuring a bright future. As Union County moves forward and continues to grow, it will be more important for citizens to support our local businesses, schools, and communities. This support will guarantee that Union County's greatest day is yet to come.

Eric Phillips is Chief Executive Officer of the Union County Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Union County-Marysville Joint Economic Development Partnership. He leaves those positions, effective Aug. 28, to take a similar job in Findlay, Ohio.

Eric

Phillips