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Darke County Gets Creative to Build Workforce

With good news stories pumping up business in Darke County, development leaders are looking to ease the growing workforce strain.

From the July 6, 2016 edition of The Dayton Business Journal

By Tristan Navera, Senior Reporter

With good news stories pumping up business in Darke County, development leaders are looking to ease the growing workforce strain.

The border county of about 53,000 people has seen an unusual number of jobs wins as manufacturers and logictics operations look at it as an ideal place to set up shop. Now, workforce is the No. 1 concern for businesses there, officials said at a Dayton Development Coalition forum in Greenville Wednesday morning.

"It's another opportunity for us to show how we can shine," said Mayor Mike Bowers of Greenville. "That workforce piece is a challenge but it can help us show off the things that we've got."

The county's largest employer Whirlpool Corp. is in the middle of hiring hundreds thanks to a newly-completed $40 million expansion. And other employers, like food producer Kings Command LLC, JAFE Decorating and FRAM Group Operations LLC, have boosted the Darke County economy, where manufacturing is the biggest industry alongside logistics and distribution.

"More and more every day that is the most critical component in making sure companies that want to move into the Dayton region are as successful as possible," said Julie Sullivan, vice president of development for the coalition.

As a result of the growing companies, the coalition's workforce efforts have taken on a much higher urgency, she said.

Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the coalition, said the 14-county region the economic development group represents has had a push for greater workforce training, but the manufacturing resurgence has made the rush for workers especially tight for communities along the I-70 and I-75 corridors.

Darke County does not have a community college or university based within its borders, meaning there is a need to get creative. Piqua-based Edison State Community College and Wright State University's Celina campus are two main education centers, but it was Greenville City Schools that has become the career training option for many companies.

The school district has invested for several years to build out a workforce center of its own especially for the manufacturing and technical jobs in the county, including a new $1.5 million addition to its workforce training facilities hoped to train another 500 students over five years.

"Advanced manufacturing is the backbone of this region, and it's alive in Darke County," Sullivan said.

Site Selection Magazine, which last year named the Dayton-region No. 2 among cities of its size for economic growth, also put Greenville, Celina, Sidney, Bellefountaine and Wapakoneta in the top 100 micropolitan areas nationally for economic growth because of the number of businesses growing there, Sullican said.

State Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, said the Miami Valley area government has worked well together in pursuit of jobs.

"They have all been single-mindedly focused on jobs and the economy, that is what is moving Ohio forward," Faber said.

Sullivan said since 2012, nearly 12,000 jobs have been created, 35,000 retained and $2.18 billion in capital investment committed through JobsOhio deals in the Dayton region. For the first half of 2016, the region has seen about 1,500 jobs by 17 companies, $90 million in capital investment. Another 50 companies with 7,000 potential jobs are considering expansions, Sullivan said.

Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall said the partnership between business, government and education work together in a unique way.

"We've been very blessed in Darke County with many different kinds of companies growing and expanding," Stegall said. "Whirlpool has been a great corporate partner and corporate citizen."

Click Here to read the article in The Dayton Business Journal