Officials exploring options to address housing shortage – The Daily Jeffersonian

The need for all levels of affordable housing in Guernsey County was one of several topics discussed during the recent joint meeting of the Community Improvement Corporation and Planning Commission boards in Cambridge.

“A lack of housing is an issue that we have had for a long time and we are trying really hard to establish a plan to increase housing locally,” said CIC Executive Director Norm Blanchard.

“Depending on which study you look at, we have approximately  7,000 people who come into the county to work, and then go home somewhere else. We would love to capture those people and keep them right here in Guernsey County.”

According to local leaders including Blanchard, there is a demand for every level of housing to include entry-level, low-level, senior and executive-level housing with homes ranging from $200,000 to $300,000 in Cambridge and the rest of the county.

“Everything is on the table and we are exploring all of our options to figure it out,” said Blanchard. “We would love to attract upper-level management people to help get our tax base higher. And, part of my job is to figure out how to make it happen.”

Blanchard discussed a potential housing development on approximately 46 acres owned by a local consortium at the former State Hospital grounds north of Cambridge.

Local officials are in the process of determining locations for necessary infrastructure such as water, sewer and gas service lines on the ground owned by the State Hospital Property Consortium and how to plot the land for lots in a housing development.

“The county already owns the property at the former state hospital grounds and that a plus, but we have to do the engineering to lay the groundwork and as always, someone has to pay for that,” said Blanchard. “At this time, we are trying to figure out how to pay for the engineers to do that work.

“It always comes down to money,” added Blanchard.

During the meeting, Jim Endley, executive director of Area Agency on Aging Region 9, spoke regarding the need for housing for senior citizens, a growing population in the county.

“He talked about the government subsidies available for senior housing and that being a potential funding source for us,” said Blanchard.

There are restrictions for use of the acreage located between Altercare on Old 21 Road and the Cambridge Township garage on Toland Drive extending to the south, but a housing development will not violate those limits.

Blanchard said he plans to continue discussions with potential developers for the site.

In other business:

Blanchard discussed six Business Retention & Expansion visits he has made since the start of the year on behalf of the Community Improvement Corporation.

“I visit companies to ask how they are doing and if they have any needs,” he said. “We also inquire about any expansion plans. If they are planning to expand, I remind them to check with our office to see what kind of services or help we can provide them.”

Blanchard seeks to visit every company in the county at least once a year, but has previously said it can be difficult getting a response from some companies.

“I call and send emails, but the response has just been terrible at times,” he previously told The Daily Jeffersonian.

Blanchard also discussed multiple presentations this year to businesses, service clubs and local programs promoting local economic development.

He has made nine presentations in 2022 including those to the Rotary Club, Lion’s Club, Leadership Guernsey and regional managers for Huntington Bank.

The long-time executive director reported Ohio ranked second behind only Texas in the Governor’s Cup race sponsored by Site Selection magazine ranking economic and business attraction ranking for the United States.

Site Selection also ranks the top 100 metropolitan and micro-metropolitan locations in the United States. Of the top 100 micro-metropolitan selections, 17 were located in Ohio including Guernsey County.

“This is good news at a time when you are trying so hard to get things accomplished,” said Blanchard.

Guernsey County’s investment for Ohio’s Governor’s Cup submission included the AEP service center at the Interstate 77/Cadiz Road interchange, $20 million; Cambridge Packaging Warehouse, $1.5 million; Colgate Investment (Phase II), $17 million; and BiCon office complex, $12 million; for a total of $50.5 million.

Those in attendance also learned Guernsey County ranks #1 in Ohio for oil production. In terms of combined oil and gas production, the county ranks #5 in Ohio and #73 nationwide.

“Oil and gas businesses are doing well in Guernsey County,” said Blanchard.

Sue Sikora of Ohio Means Jobs in Guernsey County presented attendees with a presentation regarding the local job market.

She said in 2022, business owners must understand the labor data presented and change business practices to include better recruiting strategies, removal of barriers such as childcare, provide apprenticeship opportunities and increase virtual services.

She went on to say employers are seeking stopgap measures and trying to hire rapidly to fill open jobs. They are also lowering hiring requirements, offering sign-on, retention and referral bonuses, increasing wages and offering remote work options.

The Planning Commission tabled a request by the Guernsey County Map Department to look the way well pads are mapped. The board requested additional information and will address the request once they have the information from the map department.

“This was the first time they heard about this request, so they wanted a little more information,” said Blanchard.

Cambridge Engineer Nick Cunningham, Byesville Village Administrator Brennan Dudley and Commissioner Dave Wilson presented information regarding water and sewer projects planned for 2022.

The CIC will next meet at 8 a.m. Friday, April 1 in the Guernsey County Administration Building at 627 Wheeling Ave.