Two economic forums were held May 20 in Pataskala and Etna Township in an effort to address hurdles and goals for future growth.

Two economic forums were held May 20 in Pataskala and Etna Township in an effort to address hurdles and goals for future growth.

The first forum, hosted by the Pataskala Area Chamber of Commerce, was held in Pataskala in the morning. The second was held in Etna Township in the evening.

Those who attended brought a number of ideas, such as bringing more jobs to Pataskala and Etna and maintaining each community's safety, unity and identity.

"The purpose of the forum was to discuss in particular the connection between work-force development and economic development," said Julie Maurer, administrator of Central Ohio Technical College's Pataskala campus.

Specifically, the idea of the forum, according to Pataskala Area Chamber of Commerce president Bart Weiler, was to "discuss all the differences and narrow them down to specific items and bring in some type of agenda to accomplish things.

"If we bring in one good idea to get from this, I feel it is a success," Weiler said.

He said that although Pataskala's income-tax passage was a good first step, the city must work with other communities and local governments.

Etna Township officials said they believe strengthening their identity would help the township significantly.

"I think Etna lacks an identity right now," said township zoning administrator Chris Harkness, who also serves on Etna's economic-development committee. "A lot of people don't know what Etna is. Signage is a big one, (as well as) working with the post office and mailing issues to get Etna its own postal code."

Others said they think growth lies in marketing the community with competitively waged, high-tech jobs to get the youth to stay in the community instead of commuting or moving altogether.

"It's probably the type of businesses that come that dictates the value that they bring to the community," Harkness said.

Economic-development committee member David Goll said education is key.

"Education is primary. That is one of the first things companies look for in a community," he said, "if they have the quality employees that they are looking for and the educational base to hire from."

Maurer explained COTC's role in the Pataskala community to provide a work-force in the area and give its students both a path and an access to a future career and higher education.

"It brings more jobs, more opportunities for a better quality of life," she said.

Licking County economic-development manager Rob Klinger said communities need to consider developers.

"We have to back up to the basics and use the developer," Klinger said. "They are the ones who put the money in and help create the jobs."

Etna and Pataskala officials said they also believe their citizens are at the heart of any solution.

Klinger agreed.

"They have great citizens, a great work-force and great opportunity," he said. "They just have to figure out how to put it all together and evolve."