“An In-Depth Analysis Of Regional Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, And Threats.”
One of the key activities undertaken by the CEDS committee is to assist in the completion of an updated SWOT analysis of the eight county region. This analysis should answer the question ‘where are we now?’
Buckeye Hills staff has assembled baseline information to guide committee discussions. This information was gathered from relevant data sources, recent planning activities, and past CEDS documents. This is not an official document or part of the product, it is simply intended to provide context to committee discussions. For complete details click the SWOT Analysis document below.
Some highlights from the SWOT analysis are as follows:
Post Secondary Institutions – The Buckeye Hills region is home to four institutions of higher education, and one branch campus of an institution located outside of the region. Together these institutions are a crucial resource to the region providing many benefits; quality post-secondary education for local students, centers of innovation, workforce training partners, and high value employers that provide excellent wages and benefits for workers. According to the most recent Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) information available from Stats America, this cluster employs 4,825 workers and generates over $232 million in wages. These values represent over 7% of all workers and 9.4% of all wages generated by all industries in the region.
To illustrate how important these bodies are to the capacity for innovation in the region, Ohio University secured 35 patents between 2009 and 2013, more than any other organization in the region during that time. Proctor and Gamble was second during this period with 29. (Clustermapping.us)
Economic Diversification – According to 2013 information provided by Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, there were 51,941 private sector jobs recorded in the eight county region. Of those jobs, nearly 66% were in the following five categories; manufacturing, construction, retail trade, health care, and accommodation/food services. In two counties, Athens and Hocking, these sectors make up over 70% of the private sector jobs recorded in 2013. Traditionally the counties in the region have been heavily invested in one of these primary industries as the main source of employment and wages for citizens. This leaves these areas vulnerable to shifts in market and employment conditions which are not under local control. When these events take place, local labor markets are generally devastated.
A prime example of this was the closure of the Ormet Aluminum during late 2013. As the primary employer and largest tax contributor, when this company decided to close, nearly all residents and businesses in the county felt the impact. 700 workers were laid off in this event, which was nearly 20% of the private sector workforce in Monroe County. Much of that impact is still lingering today. In order for the Buckeye Hills region to grow and thrive, efforts must be made to diversify the portfolio of industry present in the district in order to avoid major downturns and negative consequences of any potential closures or reductions in force.
Growing Chemical Industry – The Buckeye Hills region is home to a historically strong chemical and metal manufacturing cluster. Members of the CEDS committee, and local economic development professionals feel that the chemical industry is uniquely positioned to benefit from developments in the ethane/ethylene supply chain being developed as a result of shale gas exploration activities in the area. The Buckeye Hills region is home to companies that can provide feed stock materials to ethylene and ethane processing facilities, as well as industries that can utilize the processed materials to make derivative, value added products.
A recently funded Ethane Cracker Supply Chain Study completed in partnership between Buckeye Hills and the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council in Parkersburg West Virginia illustrated industry sectors participating in the supply chain that are already present in the region, as well as primary targets for attraction to the region. This information will allow community leaders to specifically target opportunities for development that have the highest chance for success based on the research that has been completed.
At least two major ethylene/ethane processing facilities are being planned for location in the Buckeye Hills region, or very close to the borders. These facilities, should they come to fruition, could create thousands of construction jobs, hundreds of permanent jobs, as well as support other businesses and retail operations that will start as a result. These facilities represent a major opportunity for the region, the likes of which have not been seen for decades.
Aging and Deteriorating Infrastructure – As described earlier, installing and maintaining infrastructure of all types in rural Ohio is typically more expensive due to geographic challenges that must be addressed. However the rural nature of the communities in the area make the dependence on that infrastructure high. This infrastructure is the lifeblood of economic and community development for the region. Without it, southeast Ohio could not compete with neighboring regions, the state, or the nation.
During spring 2014, Buckeye Hills completed a basic infrastructure analysis to help communicate the unmet needs of southeastern Ohio. At the time of that report, over the past five years, Buckeye Hills had received 304 requests from local communities for infrastructure funding in two major grant programs. Of those requests, 174 were funded, leaving 212 unfunded – a critical need of over $59 million in projects for the region. The average request was for $219,000 with an average project cost of $853,000. Basic calculations of unmet transportation infrastructure needs in one major funding program was over $198 million as of 2012. It can be assumed that those needs continue to grow one year later, while the infrastructure those unfunded projects sought to support continues to deteriorate, leaving rural communities with difficult challenges in competing for economic development opportunities.