The city of Pickerington recently hired a new economic development director in hopes of driving new business to the community, as well as to help existing ventures stay and grow.

On Jan. 7, Dave Gulden took over as Pickerington's economic development director, a post responsible for leading the city's efforts to attract new businesses, as well as to retain and facilitate expansion among those that already operate in the city.

Gulden's hire marked the first time the city has had an economic development director in place since Feb. 16, 2018, when his predecessor, Liberty Schindel, left the city after serving the post since April 2016.

"I think this is a good opportunity for me at this juncture of my career," Gulden said. "I think central Ohio is well-positioned (for economic growth), and Pickerington is very well-positioned in central Ohio."

Gulden, 43, came to Pickerington after four years as director of the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission. He also was economic development director of the city of Lorain, Ohio, from 2008-13 and a project manager of the Norwalk Economic Development Corp. from 2006-08.

He has a bachelor of arts degree in urban geography from Ohio State University and a graduate certificate in urban real estate development and finance from Cleveland State University.

As Pickerington's economic development director he'll receive an annual salary of $86,500. The city also provide him with employee benefits valued annually at $35,918.

"Dave brings to Pickerington a variety of experience and we feel that will allow him to help further the city's objectives as it pertains to economic development and guide future growth," said Frank Wiseman, Pickerington city manager.

Wiseman said it will take time for Gulden, who is new to the community, to develop relationships with business and government officials in the area.

Pickerington "needs a person dedicated to working with current businesses to meet their needs and develop working relationships with other entities that see what the future may hold," Wiseman said.

Gulden said he's been meeting with area business and government leaders since joining the city and plans soon to make the rounds to local businesses to see how they're faring in the local market, as well as to explore retention and expansion needs.

He said he also is working to market 214 acres of undeveloped land the city agreed to buy in November at the intersection of Pickerington and Busey roads.

The city agreed to purchase the land for $4 million, and city leaders said they'll seek to attract businesses to the 70 to 80 acres that front Pickerington Road. Houses are expected to be built on much of the remainder of the site.

"That's an early priority," Gulden said.

"We want to go in the direction of light industrial and light commercial (development) that there, and in other areas of the city, will drive outside dollars to the city."

Additionally, Gulden said he's working to inventory property in the city -- both developed and undeveloped -- that's available for sale or lease.

"I'm still getting a handle on all of the available land or space," he said.

"We want a listing of all the available land or space that can be leased for commercial and retail use."

Looking forward, some of Gulden's duties will include serving as a liaison among developers, existing businesses and the City Building Department to assist new construction, redevelopment and expansion projects throughout the city.

"I'll act as a project manager to keep things moving and to help keep development active," he said.