The Fairfield 33 Development Alliance is in its fifth and final year, but officials from the communities involved hope to continue the partnership with an eye toward building and developing a skilled workforce to take advantage of the area's manufacturing and industrial strengths.

The Fairfield 33 Development Alliance is in its fifth and final year, but officials from the communities involved hope to continue the partnership with an eye toward building and developing a skilled workforce to take advantage of the area's manufacturing and industrial strengths.

The alliance, created with an original five-year term commitment, is a partnership among Fairfield County, its municipalities and private industry to retain and attract jobs to the region, according to Lucas Haire, Canal Winchester's economic development director.

"One of the big things for attracting and retaining jobs here is workforce, and the availability of a quality workforce," Haire said. "The alliance has established a workforce committee that I'm heading up with Mike Miller of Fairfield County Job and Family Services."

Haire said this year, the alliance wants to provide greater accountability to all of its investors and will use sales and lead-management technology from Salesforce.com for reporting. The expectation is that positive results will result in maintaining membership in the alliance, providing for future growth.

According to Haire, a number of industries in the area need more employees with advanced manufacturing skills, such as certified welders and CNC machinists.

"As the workforce ages, we're running out of people with those skills, so companies have to hire unskilled workers and pay to train them, which is expensive and not attractive to them," he said.

"We're working with the Lancaster Career Center and Ohio University Lancaster to re-establish those programs to provide a ready pool of workers for jobs coming in," Haire said. "One part of that is the shale gas boom going on here that requires a lot of welders and machinists to build drill rigs and other tools."

Canal Pointe Industrial Park in Canal Winchester and Rockmill Industrial Park in Lancaster are focal points for the Fairfield 33 Development Alliance's efforts this year, he said.

"At Canal Pointe, we're looking for those smaller manufacturers with 200 employees or less, focused on automotive and plastics and metal fabrication," Haire said. "At Rockmill, they're focusing on glass and food and beverage manufacturing, due to their history in those industries and water and natural gas resources."

According to alliance documents, the group will concentrate on completing site certification programs for both properties in order to place them at the top of the list for corporate relocation.

"We're working with Ady International out of Chicago and the Austin Group out of Cleveland to certify the sites as shovel-ready and help us fill them," Haire said. "They run us through fictitious projects to identify and overcome issues now so that we don't get caught out in the future. These are well-known, staid companies so industry people trust that if they say the site is ready for development, then it is."

Haire said that besides workforce development, the site certifications and planning of infrastructure investment are another important part of the alliance's work in the coming year.

"Anybody that's looking to locate is looking at transportation options to get product out to sell and materials in to produce those products," he said.

"Investments made at the Diley Road interchange are helping to make that area successful," Haire said. "Infrastructure plays a huge role in economic development - not only roads but water, sewer, natural gas and electrical - and we're fortunate that South Central Power has a very good supply and redundancy at our site."

Beyond workforce development and infrastructure issues, Haire said the alliance will continue to market the area through partnerships with Columbus2020!, Mid-Ohio Development Exchange and JobsOhio, as well as participating in industry events and face-to-face meetings with industry leaders.

"This is an alliance between jurisdictions and the private sector," he said. "Our CEOs help us identify who may be thinking of expanding and down-chain suppliers that maybe looking to relocate, and they help us discover what our assets are for the region and exploit those."