Local development experts say interest in the U.S. 33 area remains strong, despite a national financial situation that prompted Congress to attempt to devise a $700-billion bailout package for Wall Street.

Local development experts say interest in the U.S. 33 area remains strong, despite a national financial situation that prompted Congress to attempt to devise a $700-billion bailout package for Wall Street.

Fairfield County development director Bill Arnett said marketing the U.S. 33 area remains important.

"I think we're going to charge ahead," said Arnett, who is also a member of the marketing committee for the Fairfield 33 Development Alliance.

In late June, the Greencrest marketing agency was hired to create a logo, Web site and other marketing materials for the alliance.

Arnett said Greencrest will be ready to launch the Web site by the end of this month. He added that developers will still be looking to move their companies to the region, so marketing is still important.

"I think overall prospect activity and interest are strong," Arnett said.

Arnett added, however, that the larger financial turmoil could "slow down projects for everybody."

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce reported for its first quarter that 49 percent (or 37 of 75) of its business prospects goal had been met, but just 14 percent (or 107 of 750) of its goal to support locating new jobs to central Ohio had been met.

Arnett said he thinks in a year and half to two years, the current financial turmoil will be a part of the past and the pace of development will increase.

"The future is still a little unclear," he said. "When are the clouds going to break and the sun is going to come out again?"

Arnett said the national financial picture deals with a lot of factors but the local impact is not all negative.

"One positive is because of the fairly weak dollar, the U.S. is considered a low-cost manufacturing country," he said. "There are opportunities for some companies based on the weaker climate."

Arnett pointed to the recent arrival U.S. Corrugated Inc. to Lancaster and even more recent plans by fabricating company Manifold & Phalor Inc. to move to Canal Winchester's industrial park, Canal Pointe.

"People are making investments," Arnett said. "This must be a good place to be."

Having any growth at all in these times is a positive sign, said Chris Strayer, Canal Winchester's development director.

Strayer returned last Friday from a National Manufacturing Week event near Chicago where he hoped to gauge interest by industrial developers in the Canal Winchester area.

"It's a different atmosphere right now," he said of the industrial convention. "Nobody's really doing anything. Everybody is just in a holding pattern."

Strayer pointed to a number of recent small-business openings in Canal Winchester and four industrial developments that have moved to Canal Pointe in the last 18 months.

"We're still seeing job growth," he added. "We're not seeing it like you'd see it five years ago, but we're still on the positive side of the coin."

There's no denying, however, that the recent news "scares people," said Andy Larned, a member of the Gender Road Business Alliance and an Edward Jones financial analyst.

According to information from Ohio Job and Family Services, unemployment in Ohio has reached 7.4 percent, the highest it's been since 1992.

Unemployment rates in Franklin and Fairfield counties are consistent with the national average of 6.1 and 6.2 percent, respectively, however.

Larned said that during the Great Depression, unemployment rates averaged 25 percent nationally.

"It's still unnerving when you're used to a way of living and you find you can't live that way any more," he added. "People are tightening their belt straps."

Larned said instead of going to more expensive restaurants and stores, area residents are more likely to spend their money at McDonald's or Wal-Mart.

Canal Winchester Chamber of Commerce president Kim Rankin agreed. She said she and her husband ordered a pizza for about $15 last week instead of going to eat at a more expensive restaurant and spending about $35.

"Things are on hold a little bit," she said. "Businesses are still growing and expanding, but they're going at a slower pace."

Rankin also agreed that development growth will turn around in a year and half to two years.

Larned, however, said that might not happen until 2012 or 2015.

"Everything goes in a circle," said Bob Garvin, president of the Southeast Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.

Garvin said the effect of the national rhetoric of financial turmoil could scare residents to the point that they won't be willing to spend money on "incidentals" -- restaurants, coffee shops and other dispensable conveniences.

"If it is true that it is hurting the market so bad, the credit market will dry up and then it will affect everybody," Garvin said. "Nobody seems to be able to get hold of this, because it's so complicated."

Strayer said at the least, government intervention in the financial market will act as a Band-Aid. It will make a difference, but "it's not going to be the winner" if the bill passes, he said.

But he said he's not worried. Strayer said developer interest in the region is still high. It's only a matter of letting banks get back to the business of lending money, he said.

"The world's going to snap back to normality," Strayer added. "We'll pop out of it sometime soon."