“A Summary Of The Economic Development Conditions In The Region.”
The purpose of this section is to provide an abbreviated explanation of the current conditions in the region. Information in this section is supported by current and relevant data that gives context to the items described in the document. The key question to consider when reading this section is ‘what have we done?’
Buckeye Hills – Hocking Valley Regional Development District is a council of governments formed in 1968 to provide administrative assistance to local governments in southeastern Ohio. This region encompasses 8 counties, 120 townships, and 57 municipalities. All eight counties in the region are part of the area acknowledged as Appalachian Ohio, which includes 32 counties in total, from Ashtabula County in the northeast, to Clermont County in the southwest.
The Buckeye Hills region in southeastern Ohio is predominantly rural in nature, with large areas of the district covered by rolling hills and vegetation. The region is bordered by the Ohio River, which when coupled with relatively low elevations, causes many areas to be prone to regular flooding conditions. The table below illustrates the types of land cover present in the region according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources information.
The region is steeped in United States and Appalachian history, as it is home to the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory (Marietta) and the first legislated public university as part of the Northwest Ordinance (Ohio University).
The rural nature of the region has lent itself to a historically strong economic sectors of mining, natural resource extraction, and manufacturing. More recently, counties in the region have become fast growing locations for oil and gas exploration and extraction from the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations that span the eastern counties of the district.
The population of the Buckeye Hills region as of the most recent U.S. Decennial Census (2010), was 260,084. Population growth in the region has been flat between 2000 and 2013, and is projected to remain flat or slightly declining until 2040.
Perry county is projected to have the most significant population growth between 2015 and 2040, generally due to the northern portion of the county being within the driving shed of the Columbus Ohio metro area.
In comparison to other regions in the state, and as a percentage (.07%) of the overall state workforce, the workforce of the Buckeye Hills region is small.
The regional labor force has seen some moderate fluctuations between 2010 and 2014, and is projected to remain relatively flat through 2040. Employment reached a five year low in 2014. The lower rates could be attributed to the sharp increase in oil and gas exploration and extraction activities, as well as the overall economic recovery taking place in the U.S. following the recession of 2008 – 2011.
The table above represents individuals from age 15 to 69 as depicted in population projections produced by the State of Ohio. This age cohort was chosen as the potential employable population for the Buckeye Hills region based on the fact that many individuals seek employment directly out of High School.
Traditionally the sectors which employ the most workers in the Buckeye Hills region have been manufacturing, retail trade, health care, accommodation services, as well as local government.
The region has a wealth of educational resources, including all or parts of 28 school districts, and seven colleges. Between 2009 and 2013, the Buckeye Hills region has exceeded the state and federal rates of high school graduates, and individuals with associate’s degrees; but lags behind in bachelors and advanced degrees.
Housing in the Buckeye Hills region has recently become a concern as oil and gas activities have brought new residents (both temporary and permanent) to the region. Similar natural resource booms in other parts of the country have led to housing hardships for existing low to moderate income residents, as they are forced out of existing housing by higher paying tenants.
Between 2009 and 2013 the region experienced an 86% occupancy rate of available housing units.
The Buckeye Hills region has multiple modes of transportation actively contributing to the regional economy, including highway, rail, maritime, and limited public transportation. The district contains over 8,900 total miles of roads, 182 miles of rail, 147 miles of Ohio River frontage, six transit agencies, as well as other transportation assets that benefit the region.
(For further information visit the Buckeye Hills Regional Transportation Planning Organization Website – http://rtpo.buckeyehills.org, or contact Transportation Planning Manager Karen Pawloski.)
Infrastructure assets in the region have always been a challenge for economic development activities. The region has challenging geography making some areas difficult to extend primary utilities in to including water, sewer, gas, and telecommunications. Regional organizations continue to work in coordination with local governments to identify and prioritize infrastructure needs for the district.
Most recently, efforts have been made to bolster broadband availability in the region. As of November 2014, the region has an 84.02% average of availability of non-mobile broadband service to households. This is 14.81% below the estimated state average (98.83%).
The Buckeye Hills region also lacks complete mobile telephone coverage, which is a hindrance to economic development activities.