Van Wert Area Economic Development Director Stacy Adam gave an update on economic development during the annual meeting on Tuesday. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Van Wert Area Economic Development Director Stacy Adam gave an update on economic development during the annual meeting on Tuesday. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Van Wert Area Economic Development held its annual meeting on Tuesday to give the community an update on what has been achieved in the past year and what the community can look forward to in the next year.

“It is our goal to promote and retain existing businesses, design and implement solutions to drive investment, and facilitate the creation of new jobs in Van Wert County,” said Economic Development Director Stacy Adam. “That really is the role of the Van Wert Economic Development office.”

An economic overview of Van Wert County showed that the county’s population is on the decline and has decreased by 396 people over the previous five years. The population is projected to continue to decrease by 243 over the next five years.

However, jobs grew by 1,047 over the previous five years with 11,989 jobs currently in Van Wert. That growth is projected to continue to grow by 490 over the next five years.

The median household income for 2016 was $50,500, around $4,800 below the national median income of $55,300.

Data also showed that, when compared to other communities of similar size, Van Wert has less millennials and more citizens expecting to retire soon than the national average for communities with a similar size. Van Wert also has an almost non-existent racial diversity compared to other communities of similar size.

Van Wert County has more veterans, less violent crimes, and fewer property crimes than the overall national average.

Van Wert also has a lower than average unemployment rate at 3.1 percent. The national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.

“Our unemployment rate is low,” said Adam. “Full employment would be considered at or around 5 percent. We certainly have created jobs, and we have people that are working.”

Adam explained that Van Wert County currently has more people living in the county and working outside the county than it does people who both live and work in the county.

“The total amount of people living in Van Wert and working somewhere is 14,691,” said Adam. “The number of workers that live and work in Van Wert County is 5,714. Of all the people that are working in Van Wert County, about 40 percent of them live and work here. The rest of them, over 60 percent, are traveling outside of Van Wert County to work.”

Adam also noted that there are 4,655 people that work in Van Wert but are living somewhere else. She hopes that through the housing that the Dickinson Farm subdivision will add, some of those workers will choose to move to Van Wert.

Also during the meeting, an update was given on the Revolving Loan Fund which loaned out $445,00 to Van Wert Businesses in the past year. The fund helped six businesses in the past year make improvements to their business and create jobs.

In the past year, the Land Bank helped to remove blighted structures and revitalize land. Originally, the Land Bank was awarded a $500,000 grant to help with the program. Since then, an additional $500,000 grant was awarded in November 2017, and then another $150,00 grant was awarded in March 2018.

To date, 42 properties have been acquired with 30 demolitions completed so far.

In the past year, the Van Wert Works website was created which allows employers to post jobs for free. Currently, there are 114 companies registered, 329 students have created profiles, and 52 people have resumes uploaded. In 2018, 249 jobs have been posted so far.

Other areas that Adam explained that give Van Wert and edge is the 1,000 foot expansion on the Airport runway, the 100,000-square-foot- spec building which is nearly completed, and the expansion of the CEO program into all local schools which will allow for students to develop relationships with area businesses.

Overall, Adam noted, businesses are growing in Van Wert. In the past year, Eaton netted 175 employees, Federal Mogul added 80 employees, Van Wert welcomed MEK to the area, Braun Ambulances announced a merger with Demers and added 25 new employees since February, Cooper Farms increased oven capacity in 2017 by 20 percent, and Van Wert Health expand into a new facility which will add jobs and open in the near future.

Going forward, Adam said that the City and the County will continue to sit down and create a strategic plan together. An economic development website will be coming in the near future.