Defiance County – Defiance County’s Economic Growth Continues, Several Projects Launched | Progress Edition
Erika Willitzer, executive director of the Defiance County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC), thought there might be a lull in 2022 economic growth in Defiance County due to her office being “crazy busy” in 2021. during the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, economic development in Defiance County shows no signs of slowing down in 2022.
“We are still seeing interested businesses (in the county). Several projects were presented in 2021 and landed in 2022,” Wilitzer added. In the field of economic development, there are always opportunities or even decisions to be made, but announcements may take place at a later date.
Willitzer was hired in October 2020, succeeding Jerry Hayes, who retired two months later after 20 years in leadership. She was surprised at how busy she was during those days of the worst pandemic conditions.
Now that COVID-19 cases have dropped significantly, she noted that companies have adopted new practices in general to keep employees safe. In situations where masks are required, this is understood and accepted.
Interestingly, there is a mix of employee opinions on returning to the office versus working remotely. She has received calls from employees now working remotely who would prefer to return to the office.
“Some personalities feed off others,” she added, acknowledging that even in the process of economic development, face-to-face meetings have benefits.
Companies recognize what is most important to workers – family and work/life balance. Employers are offering more flexibility in working conditions with hybrid schedules combining office and remote days.
“There are lessons to be learned,” Willitzer noted.
Companies are also looking more at the quality of life component in addition to business needs in the site selection process. Housing is still a need and the creation of a county-wide housing task force is proposed.
Two other initiatives are arousing the interest of businesses and individuals alike. Interest in outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and connecting trails has increased. The development of trails has already been undertaken by local communities to meet these needs.
Daycare needs are assessed on the basis of the return of a greater number of people to the labor market. Kortney Williams, marketing and labor manager for the office of economic development, is working to identify the social problem and seek viable solutions. One possible solution could be a daily allowance for childcare from an employer.
Projects landed in 2021 represent more than $161 million in new investment for the county.
One such venture is A Packaging Group (APG), a $49 million project that will be located at the intersection of Domersville Road and Commerce Drive in Defiance. It will be housed in an 80,000 square foot building that was a speculative build in the Harmon Business Park. The company will eventually create 135 jobs.
It was announced in January that the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) had approved a $100,000 grant to help APG build rail infrastructure for the nearby Napoleon, Defiance and Western railroads.
Based in California and launched in 2019 by Helga Arminak, APG is a one-stop manufacturer of premium, standard and custom packaging products for the cosmetics, skincare and personal care industries with over 2,000 solutions in stock and customizable. The Defiance plant will be APG’s first manufacturing facility in the United States. There are five distribution sites in the United States and Canada.
The EnviroKure LLC fertilizer plant is currently under construction on Rosedale Road, just east of Hicksville. It represents an investment of $22 million over 5 years.
Keller Logistics Group is building a new packaging plant on East Commerce Drive in Defiance with an investment of $7.1 million.
CastleHill Materials is preparing a building at 1459 Quality Drive in Defiance, investing $3 million. The company manufactures stone facades for houses and other buildings.
Other new projects for the county are Candela-Mark Center Solar Field, $11.5 million; Vancrest Health System, long-term care facility/assisted living in Hicksville, $15 million; and Tessenderlo Kerley Inc. (TKI), a liquid fertilizer plant in Defiance, with no less than $44 million in investment.