A countywide strategic planning session was held Tuesday at The Gathering Place on Seventh and Butler streets in Marietta.
The hosts were the Washington County commissioners and representatives of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.
“The goal tonight is to share information with you about what we call an economic scan,” said Marty Hohenberger, director at the Center for Economic Development & Community Resilience at OU. “Basically to level set you on data points and trends that are important in our conversation about you moving forward as a community. And the other part of it is to really get input from you all on what those priorities are.”
Clara Bone, senior project manager, said Washington County was the fifth largest in the state by land with two cities, 22 townships, and five villages. There are about 28,000 housing units and a median home cost of about $146,000. There are almost 50,000 people age 16 or older in the county, with one in five over the age of 65. She stated the average yearly income was $51,808 with a poverty rate of 13.2%.
After Bone’s presentation the floor was opened for suggestions on how to improve different areas in the county, including infrastructure, telecommunication and broadband, agriculture and workforce. Suggestions including access to natural gas, better cellular service and updating schools were written on posters for different categories.
Stickers were then handed out, three green and one red, to each attendee. They were asked to place a green sticker on the suggestion they felt most important, and the red on the least.
Water and sewer access for rural areas received the most green stickers for infrastructure, with the US Army Corps of Engineers moving their building receiving one red. Better cellular service received the most green stickers in telecommunication and broadband, while keeping local and reducing price were among the most popular in agriculture. Appealing jobs for the younger generation received the most stickers in the workforce category, while tourism, housing and school receiving updates about an equal share in the “other” category.
Attracting and promoting immigration, which Hohenberger said involved drawing people from other countries, received the most red stickers.
Hohenberger said nothing was set in stone, that these were just ideas on how to move forward, and that the process was ongoing.
“We’re planning to do this over a period of time,” Hohenberger said. “This isn’t the end-all, be-all here. There’s a lot of work to go into this after this conversation.”