Westerville has been a "college town" since 1847, when Otterbein University was founded and brought with it the distinction of becoming one of the nation's first universities to welcome women and persons of color to its student community.

Westerville has been a "college town" since 1847, when Otterbein University was founded and brought with it the distinction of becoming one of the nation's first universities to welcome women and persons of color to its student community.

The university has since grown with Westerville, welcoming its largest class of freshmen since 2010 this semester. In total, a student body of nearly 3,000 call Westerville home for four (or more) years. Because of Otterbein, Westerville has the unique 'town and gown' status, a phrase characterizing the relationship between residents and students, cities and the institutions of higher learning they host.

'Town and gown' creates great opportunity for residents and students alike.

Students benefit from real-world learning experiences with Westerville-based employers and organizations as well as valuable internship and employment opportunities. Residents have access to special events -- theater, sports and more-- and the economic boost of a student community that spends where they live.

Westerville's relationship with Otterbein, however, is much deeper and meaningful than the simple transaction of give and take. We have a long history of partnership, from service projects with student volunteers to major initiatives that redefine the workspace between a college and its host community.

The most recent example of that collaboration is the creation of the new science, technology, engineering, arts and math Innovation Center. This program, both building and curriculum, will combine academics with the business and manufacturing needs of central Ohio. The facility has been under construction on Collegeview Avenue since earlier this year, and will soon open its doors to students and businesses to explore start-up initiatives, entrepreneurship and skill application for the most innovative studies in modern education.

For Westerville, the STEAM Center fulfills a specific vision in our economic development strategy: pairing industry, higher education and local government to grow the workforce, engage entrepreneurs and connect great, well-prepared Otterbein students to new-generation manufacturing.

The multi-partner initiative also offers assets that further position Westerville as a regional economic destination.

With programs like STEAM, the state, the Columbus region and our local community become increasingly attractive for new investment.

And, we're also helping businesses born in central Ohio stay local. In fact, we anticipate the STEAM Center will anchor what could become known as a "Westerville Innovation District" since it neighbors the nation's first municipal data center, WeConnect, and the Women's Small Business Accelerator.

Projects like these simply wouldn't be possible without an Otterbein University nestled along Main Street. Otterbein opens doors and brings intellectual power to projects that become mutually beneficial for students and residents. Their efforts also help others invest in Westerville, which keeps our economic health strong and steady.

Each year Otterbein students carry forward traditions (check out the line to Schneider's Bakery at 1 a.m. on weekdays) and bring purpose and passion to Westerville.

To the incoming class, I offer a very warm welcome and wish you the best while you pursue your education. To our returning students, welcome back and we look forward to supporting your drive and determination as you pursue your career. I hope you find your home here in our community.

City notes is provided to ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion by the city of Westerville. David Collinsworth is the Westerville city manager.