The Grow Licking County Community Improvement Corp. is off to a good start, says Licking County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Dan Evers, but it certainly can't take all the credit.
"Things are going extremely well," said Evers, who was hired in March.
Recently, Evers said, two major expansion projects were announced for the Etna Corporate Park: the Ascena Retail Group and Menlo Worldwide Logistics.
The Ascena Retail Group is a leading national specialty retailer of apparel for women and tween girls, operating through its subsidiaries, Dressbarn, Maurices and Justice brands. In 2009, Ascena purchased the Limited spinoff Tween Brands, which currently operates a distribution center in the Etna Corporate Park.
Ascena will add between 400,000 and 500,000 square feet to its existing facility; retain 300 jobs, which were in danger of being moved to Greencastle, Ind.; and add roughly 225 more jobs.
Evers said Ascena's total investment in the Licking County community will be roughly $72 million to $75 million and the new jobs are expected to add $6.7 million in annual payroll.
Menlo Worldwide Logistics plans to add 60 employees to its base staff of 25, and it will invest $3.5 million to expand its current location in the Prologis facility. The new positions should add $2 million in annual payroll.
Menlo specializes in supply-chain services, including sourcing of raw materials, product manufacturing and the distribution of finished goods.
"As your opening months go, that's not terrible," Evers said. "There is so much talent and great resources in this community. Never say, 'Look at what the CIC did.' Say, 'Look at what the community did.' "
Evers said the CIC's current goals are to develop an integrated, fully functional website; continue to identify "targeted industries," meaning high-value, high-opportunity employers that require and desire Licking County community resources; create an outbound marketing and information initiative; and continue and expand county partnerships.
"We're refining our message and strategic plan," Evers said.
"The CIC has become a metaphor for a unified effort," said Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb. "It helps that the economy is coming back a bit."
Bubb said it was fortunate the CIC was created when Pataskala's Job-Ready Site was established and the economy began pulling out of the recession.
"You can leave (development) to happenstance, but good intentions don't necessarily sell economic development," he said.
Bubb said he expects the JRS will be listed with a national and international marketing firm within a month.
"We have to really promote and market ourselves," he said. "What we're learning now is web-based information is what's needed for people to take a look at you."
Bubb said the Ascena and Menlo projects may help draw attention to Licking County.
"We're hoping that's going to be the tip of the iceberg," he said.