Carroll County, Ohio
Empowering businesses to succeed
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Carroll County, Ohio for our focus on Growth & Economic Development in U.S. Communities
At the heart of Ohio’s Appalachia, less than a two-hour drive outside Cleveland is scenic Carroll County , a most desirable place to live, work, and enjoy life to its fullest. Blessed with charming small towns and breathtaking landscapes, there’s always something to do in the County – whether its shopping at a delightful local business, going fishing on Atwood Lake, or celebrating Ohio’s colonial history during The Great Trail Festival.
Commemorating its historic past is a significant part of Carroll County’s identity, as it’s positioned on the overland route used in the 1700s by Indigenous Americans and fur traders. After Ohio became a state in 1803, The Great Trail was the only way travelers could enter the area from the east. On Christmas Day in 1832, the state authorized the creation of Carroll County; named for Charles Carroll the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. The area is home to the Daniel McCook House and the Petersburg Mill, each listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Carroll County is where you can walk down the sidewalk and not only smile and wave at everybody, but greet them with their name,” states County Commissioner, Chris Modranski. “With a population of just over 28,000, we know each other here; it’s almost like The Andy Griffith Show. More than the quaintness of everybody knowing who you are is the fact that everybody is willing to help each other out. We’ve had many successful stories of raising funds for individuals who’ve had medical needs, all the way up to businesses helping other businesses succeed. I think that makes Carroll County one of the best places to live and own a business.”
It’s no surprise that the housing market is booming. As soon as properties are listed for sale, they are quickly sold. Thinking of both current and future residents, the County is increasing broadband availability. Modranski acknowledges, “We’re relying on some new initiatives from both the Federal and Governor’s offices for some funding. We’ve been made aware of the initiative from Governor Mike DeWine’s office, the Residential Broadband Grant Program, that will invest $250 million dollars to expand broadband access across the state. There is also approximately $4.1 million in funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program.” Ohio will also receive funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package. The money can be used towards high speed Internet installation, since the pandemic emphasized the crucial need for broadband expansion across rural areas like Carroll County.
The County’s rural setting lends itself to an economy driven by agriculture and manufacturing. Ed Looman, Engagement & Partnerships Specialist for OhioSE Economic Development, points out that the oil and gas industry is another important economic contributor. He notes, “The energy sector impacts most of eastern Ohio. Particularly Carroll County, with the construction of the Carroll County Energy gas to electric power plant. In this part of Ohio with the whole Marcellus Shale play there have been billions of dollars invested and thousands of jobs created. Carroll County was in on the initial boom, with the end result being Carroll County Energy. I’ve been impressed by the County leadership because the plant construction resulted in a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program that helped The Carrollton Exempted Village School District get a brand-new, grades 6 through 12 school building without the taxpayers having to shoulder the load.”
Both Looman and Modranski agree Carroll County would be suited for more manufacturing sectors tied to the oil and gas industry, given its proximity (less than four hours) to the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex currently under construction in Potter Township, Pennsylvania. The monstrous ethane cracker facility will produce pellets for use in plastics manufacturing or any other sector requiring that feedstock. A similar ethane cracker project is also proposed for Ohio’s Belmont County, which if approved, could attract even more industries to the region.
Like the rest of the Appalachia area, the County is working on having more ready-to-build industrial sites. One such example is the local company Griffeth & Son Trucking Inc. Modranski reports, “At the end of 2019, beginning of 2020, Griffeth & Son invested $4.2 million dollars into the purchase of a former plastics manufacturing building. They are in the process of renovating it and even extending the rail line right in the center of Carroll County. They went from 26 employees to adding 40 new jobs and creating more than a million dollars in payroll.” Looman agrees with the ongoing need for ‘shovel-ready’ sites. He believes a significant element in the Griffeth & Son project was building availability. He maintains, “That’s how important having inventory is when it comes to counties being able to market useable sites. Thanks to that building being empty another company was able to move in, renovate, expand, and add to its workforce.”
Carroll County has a large workforce, but 53 percent travel outside the area for employment. Training offered by the Ohio Government through OhioMeansJobs.com provides job postings, career skills, and other resources to residents. Out of the approximate 47 percent of residents employed within the County, many operate their own small businesses, so encouraging local businesses to work with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), whether they are start-up or already established, is vital. Located in the neighboring County of Tuscarawas, SBDC works closely with local businesses to help them operate efficiently.
Coral Abel, community organizer and local business owner of DanceAbel Ballroom Studio, can personally attest to the resources and support she receives. She recounts, “I chose Carroll County to open my studio because it fosters and supports business growth. They want to see businesses grow, they don’t want them to go stagnant or move out. They’re really good at offering resources like the SBDC for business owners like myself to rely upon. After working with them, they helped me develop a business plan to better manage my cash flow, so I could stay open during the pandemic. Without some of those resources, I don’t think my business would have survived COVID-19. The people here are also amazing. We’re a friendly community and when you open a mom-and-pop shop, the community is very supportive. With my business in particular, I work to keep our County healthy and happy through fitness classes.”
Partnerships like the one with SBDC are crucial to the area’s economic development. Carroll County also works with Ohio Southeast Economic Development (OhioSE), which promotes the region’s labor surplus, favorable tax climate, and low operating costs as the perfect place to grow a business. Looman, an OhioSE team member, also shares how the County collaborates with JobsOhio.com. “It’s Ohio’s public-private economic organization. It has a unique operating model because when it launched 10 years ago it purchased the retail liquor franchise from the state. JobsOhio profits from the sale of liquor and uses it to fund the economic development in Ohio.” He further explains that the state is divided into six sections with OhioSE being the JobsOhio partner for the eastern and southeastern regions, encompassing 25 counties including Carroll. “As a result of the pandemic, a number of states have cut back on economic opportunities because their funding comes from the state budget. When that suffers, funds are cut; but Ohio isn’t in that situation. We’re seeing an increase in revenues because of the way we’re funded.”
This unique funding model also allows the County Engineer to prioritize the township roads, bridges, and culverts in need of repair. The County’s infrastructure has been vastly improved with just about every road and bridge now meeting the approved rating system. Looman provides the example of a county company wanting to expand, but its main road is inhibiting that growth. Carroll County, along with potential funders, have come together so there should be enough grant money to renovate the road, allowing the company to achieve its goals.
“Carroll County is involved with all aspects of the community; we pull together to get the job done,” says Looman. “It’s cooperation, collaboration, and Commissioner Modranski keeping his nose to the grindstone to work every possible angle to resolve a situation; hopefully resulting in new investments and jobs for the County.” For Modranski the immediate goal is to continue focusing on bringing more businesses into the community. “We want to employ more of our residents, so less of them have to travel outside the County for work. We want to prevent our young people from leaving to find employment. There are many enriching things to do right here in Carroll County and it will always be a reliable community to raise a family in.”
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AT A GLANCE
Carroll County, Ohio
What: A rural family-friendly county; population 28,000
Where: Eastern Ohio in the heart of Appalachia