In yet another effort to plan for Delaware County's rapid population growth, the county's economic-development team is considering how best to prepare the "36/37 corridor" for incoming businesses.

The county, in conjunction with Columbus consulting firm NBBJ, has conducted two public meetings to ask for input about the corridor of U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37, which connects Delaware and Sunbury.

The goal is to gather thoughts on what should come next for the area, assess business needs and unveil a plan in coordination with local municipalities.

Given its proximity to the Tanger Outlet Mall and the increasing populations of nearby communities, the corridor is a target for "encouraging smart growth" for the county, said county Economic Development Director Bob Lamb.

Lamb said his team has approached the process without preconceived notions and is focused on responding to input.

"The overall study is looking at the corridor from a holistic viewpoint to see what kind of land-use policies should be adopted in that corridor," he said.

According to Lamb, the meetings -- one in Berkshire Township and one in Berlin Township -- had a "great turnout." While a report is still in the works from NBBJ, Lamb said some overarching themes were evident.

"We heard that people want to make sure it remains a strong transportation corridor and that people enjoy the open space that is contained within the 36/37 corridor," he said. "They understand that growth is coming to the county and they want to see it undertaken in a smart manner."

Lamb said one of the goals will be to "help diversify" the business base in the area.

He said the corridor currently has "limited utilities," which likely will be a focus of any action, and emphasized that one of the county's priorities will be to work with the Ohio Department of Transportation to coordinate with several upcoming projects on its agenda.

But Lamb said he isn't yet willing to make any assessments of what will come next until the project's steering committee sees NBBJ's report. He added he still considers the county to be in the public-input stage.

"At this point, we're really interested in hearing from the community and getting their thoughts before we make any decisions," he said.

While coordination can be a challenge in a project that involves multiple townships and other municipalities, Lamb said the groups are used to working with one another.

"We're really excited to be working with the community partners on this project," he said. "We think it's a great opportunity to plan ahead for what could be coming over the next five, 10, 20 years in the county."