The Pataskala and Etna Township community puts its money where its mouth is, said Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer for Columbus2020!, a central Ohio public-private regional development organization working to bring industry and jobs to the 11 Ohio counties it represents, including Licking County.

The Pataskala and Etna Township community puts its money where its mouth is, said Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer for Columbus2020!, a central Ohio public-private regional development organization working to bring industry and jobs to the 11 Ohio counties it represents, including Licking County.

McDonald spoke to the Pataskala Area Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 18 about his organization’s role in attracting economic development to Pataskala, Etna Township and central Ohio.

McDonald said Port Columbus International Airport is “an important piece of the puzzle” for attracting growth and industry, and Pataskala’s proximity to it is a distinct advantage.

“People ask for what’s within an hour of Port Columbus,” he said.

Greater Pataskala also has an advantage because it has aggressively developed and prepared locations such as the Pataskala Corporate Park job-ready site (JRS) and Etna Parkway to accept industrial development immediately.

McDonald said Columbus2020! has brought site selectors to the JRS to see what it has to offer. He said it is far easier to accommodate new development when the site is ready to go, as opposed to trying to explain to companies what eventually will be there.

McDonald believes there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about attracting growth and industry to Pataskala and central Ohio despite the country’s economic woes.

“I think the universe is pretty big with this,” he said. “I’m optimistic.”

He said the companies that are doing well are “really doing well” and the recession squelched much of their competition.

“The (companies) who survived are doing better than ever,” he said.

The greater Pataskala area is particularly accommodating to research and development, office, manufacturing, and logistics companies, and these are the types of industries McDonald thinks about when promoting the area.

“We have a really good story to tell,” he said. “We need to make sure people know this is a good place to do business.”

Currently, McDonald said, organizations such as Columbus2020! and JobsOhio are working closely with communities and private developers to market central Ohio’s potential for economic growth.

“That’s not been the case for a long time,” he said.

Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher also offered his thoughts on attracting businesses to the area.

“I am thankful that the voters and residents understand and support our ongoing efforts to bring jobs into our community, what it means to them as business and industry starts helping pay the tax bill and not just the rooftops of local residents as we have now, and that it’s the residents that will continue to play a major role as we go forward,” Butcher said.

He said a community’s attitude plays a critical role.

“We must be sure we are projecting to the world in this new world economy what a great a place Pataskala, Licking County and central Ohio really (are) to live and raise a family,” he said.

For example, the mayor said, somewhere in the world, a captain of industry could peruse the Internet and look at Pataskala as a possible location for development from his or her desk before ever leaving the office. It’s then that he or she would decide whether a visit to Pataskala’s JRS site is worthwhile.

“That all (would come) from that Internet research,” Butcher said.

He said such research used to happen during a site visit, when potential developers would observe and consider everything from community attitude to infrastructure, education, crime, quality of life, recreation, housing stock and prices and available workforce. But today they glean much of the factual information from a website and determine the community’s attitude toward itself and its government through reading local newspapers, he said.

Butcher said communities will lose property values when they don’t operate smoothly or their residents don’t enjoy living there regardless of the amenities they provide. Fortunately, he said, that’s not the case in Pataskala.

“We have a great community and we are in great shape,” he said. “The greatest salesmen we have for this site and our community (are) our residents and business community, and it’s been proven over and over again that a community has gained or lost opportunities because of a bad first impression.”

Butcher said there are many stories in the development world about site selectors visiting a community and stopping to ask business owners and residents some basic questions about it.

“They walked away not because the community lacked any of the critical infrastructure, tax abatement or available workforce but because of a poor community attitude towards itself,” he said.

Butcher said the Licking County and Pataskala Area chambers of commerce representatives joined joint economic-development district (JEDD) board and Pataskala government representatives in a private meeting with McDonald after the chamber luncheon to discuss best practices and how to leverage the city’s relationship with Columbus2020!, JobsOhio and the Ohio Department of Development.

“What we walked away from this meeting with was certainly a game plan for some next steps,” he said. “But also, we recognized that we are doing many things right and that it is important that we stay focused, involved and engaged with all these organizations, including MORPC.”

He said McDonald expressed how important it is that Pataskala places itself and the JRS in front of regional developers and national site selectors as often as possible.

Columbus2020!’s goals are to add 150,000 new jobs to central Ohio by the year 2020, increase personal per-capita income by 30 percent, add $8 billion of capital investment and be recognized as a national leader in economic development.