Shelby County, Ohio
Together we can!
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Shelby County, Ohio for our focus on Economic Development in U.S. Cities and Counties
Located in the northwestern heartland of Ohio, Shelby County is home to just under 50,000 residents who are enjoying an enviable, down to earth lifestyle. The county seat and largest center is the City of Sidney, while the rest of the county is made up of dozens of small villages, townships and unincorporated communities, all with the same core values that bind them together. As County Commissioner Bob Guillozet describes it, “Shelby County is small enough for people to know each other, but big enough to get some things accomplished.”
“It’s a very caring community,” adds another County Commissioner, Tony Bornhorst. “It’s just a wonderful place to work and raise a family. I always say, we really have the best slice of the pie anywhere around. Church is important, school is important, work ethic is important and recreation is important. It’s just a really good combination.”
Commissioner Julie Ehemann echoes the sentiments, noting, “The county is known for being a close-knit community filled with people who really care. We’ve got a new tagline going on in Sidney that really fits Shelby County as well. It says ‘Sidney is a spirit’ and I have seen as I’ve been working throughout the community that we do have really caring people. We raised money for a library addition, a new animal shelter, things for the hospital – and when we are out trying to raise funds for these initiatives, people really come through big because they see how important it is to help the entire community.”
“That Sidney spirit reverberates through the entire county as a testament to who the county residents really are,” says Guillozet. “We’ve got a real good work ethic from all our residents. We work hard and we play hard here.”
Shelby County features a diverse workplace atmosphere, with agriculture and manufacturing both vying for the top spot. Manufacturing in the county revolves mostly around the auto industry, including a Honda engine plant, suppliers for Honda, and Airstream Travel Trailers. Shelby is also home to local-grown businesses like Wells Brothers Inc., Lochard Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, and Ferguson Construction. Cargill Inc. has also recently invested $225 million in the county, into what will become North America’s largest soybean crushing facility.
There’s also a large farming community, producing corn, soybean, wheat and dairy. “It’s a unique combination and both feed off each other,” Bornhorst says. “In the farming community, agriculture is kind of up and down, and at times you supplement your income by working in the manufacturing industry.”
In Shelby County, 42 percent per capita are involved in manufacturing, which is higher than any other county in Ohio. To keep the industry going, the county’s economic development department has created what it calls a “Workforce Partnership,” to help develop and train new skilled labor. “It came back to us needing more skilled workers in our community; we want to keep our kids here and we want to help them know what opportunities are here,” Ehemann says. “We actually had a curriculum developed and worked out with the school to start teaching kids in junior high level what they need to be a productive member of the workforce.”
Each month a career coach, sponsored by local businesses, will go into the schools and discuss a different segment of the workforce community, including healthcare, manufacturing and construction.
“It’s a very good collaborative effort to advertise jobs and potential possibilities,” Bornhorst says. “The whole goal there is to let folks know that jobs are here and you can come back from college or you can stay here after high school and be able to move forward with your life in a very good paying job. We’ve done a lot when it comes to workforce development and it’s really starting to pay off.”
The county sees a net influx of more than 5,000 people come into the community every day to work. While their population has remained stable over the past several years, they are hoping to increase the amount of people who call the area home, thanks to a few initiatives they have going on now. Of particular note: Shelby County is investing $13 million to expand its wastewater treatment plant for the west side of the county, and has also committed to two multi-million dollar bridge projects.
They are also seeing an influx of housing projects in all of the county’s communities. Every village has its own small new development projects, which will add 10 to 20 homes in each area this year. The City of Sidney is also preparing for a brand new subdivision that will see an additional 200 new homes built in the area. Bornhorst shares, “I’m looking forward to more housing opportunities, so that potentially all those workers that come into the county each day can decide to live in the county, which would be great.”
Shelby’s recreational amenities are also a big draw to new families looking for a place to set their roots.
“Sidney’s got great parks,” Ehemann says. “But then all of our villages have worked hard to have great opportunities for kids and families – even if it’s just a walking path for our seniors. If you want to get outside, you can.”
The county is currently working on completing its section of the Great Miami River Way for bicycles. Shelby County is located at the head of the Miami River and, once connected, the pathway will connect Sidney to the Ohio River. Bornhorst reports, “We have about three and a half miles to finish here. We have drawings being completed and we’ve started to reach out for money resources. Once we get that three and a half miles completed there will be 96 miles of paved trail. Our portion we are trying to complete would be along the Miami and Erie Canal, a feeder canal, so it will be very scenic and actually historic at the same time, too.”
Improvements are also being made to Sidney’s downtown, which is undergoing a revitalization program.
“We’re seeing new restaurants opening up, new retail shops, and we are working on some of the greenspace downtown to make it more inviting for our community,” says Ehemann. “It’s really just a great, exciting time for us to be able to be part of all of this.”
At the center of the downtown revitalization project is the Shelby County Courthouse – a French Second Empire-style building designed in 1883 by George H. Maetzel. The limestone, sandstone and marble building takes up an entire city block and is still in use today. The county commissioners spent well over $5 million to refurbish the building and it’s become the focal point of the downtown. “It’s a beautiful structure with lots of trees and grass around it and just a great opportunity to be at the center of the downtown Sidney area,” says Bornhorst.
Looking to the future, the commissioners of Shelby County and the City of Sidney, above all, want their communities to keep growing and thriving. Guillozet sums it up well, noting, “I’d really like to see our businesses continue to do well and continue to bring people into our community and keep our standard of living as high as it is now, and even higher.”
AT A GLANCE
Shelby County, Ohio
What: A thriving community with a focus on manufacturing and agriculture
Where: Located in the northwestern part of the state
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