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Lack of employees impacting local businesses, expansions – The Daily Jeffersonian

Norm Blanchard

An unwillingness to work and a smaller pool of potential employees is combining to risk business expansion in Guernsey County.

That was the message by Executive Director Norm Blanchard to the Guernsey County Port Authority during its monthly meeting at the Community Improvement Corporation office.

“All of the companies say they can’t get people to go to work and if they do, people want to dictate the days and hours they can work or they don’t work,” said Blanchard, while discussing the county Manufacturing Council.

“And, business leaders have voiced their concerns that if they can’t hire people, they can’t expand here. That’s critical for this area. We need to keep the companies that we already have here (in Guernsey County) healthy.”

The Manufacturing Council is working with Zane State College to get them onboard with necessary training and other providers to help with securing people for entry level jobs.

“Most of them are soft-skill positions,” said Blanchard. “If the people will just show up, the employers will train them.”

A recent study indicates many people are simply staying home to receive additional unemployment benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conducted by Southeast Ohio Research Analyst James Woodward, the study showed the additional $300 a week offered by the federal government during the pandemic resulted in production workers earning $32 more per week on average than if they were working.

But, that may be coming to a halt locally in the near future.

Gov. Mike DeWine said earlier this year that Ohio will stop participating in the additional $300 in unemployment payments on June 26.

The supplement has been available to Ohioans since 2020 when Congress passed the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Meanwhile, the jobless rate in Guernsey County dropped to 5.3% in April and March, down from 6.7% in February and 7.2% in January.

At a recent Guernsey County Community Improvement Corporation meeting, Blanchard said business leaders with Federal Mogul, Ohio Bridge, Detroit Diesel, Ridge Tool and Bi-Con Services all reported having difficulties meeting hiring demands.

In other business:

  • Port Authority members learned about a loan program through Wesbanco offering local business owners a seven-year loan at one-half of the market rate to complete upgrades and purchase equipment. Blanchard said it would be ideal for downtown Cambridge and he is reviewing services already provided by banks in the city.
  • Discussed an expansion proposal by Ohio Bridge that would require closing a portion of Gomber Avenue in Cambridge. The company currently spends up to $400,000 annually to move items being manufactured between buildings. The project would allow the company to build bridges at a cheaper cost before they are shipped for installation in areas around the world.
  • A 49-acre property owned by Otto Luburgh of Zanesville and located on Wintergreen Road south of Old Washington was discussed. Luburgh has pledged to invest $700,000  to level the property and improve Dollison Lane, an access road to the property at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Ohio 285. The property would provide a site for future development that is currently not available in the county.
  • Discussed Zane State College’s search for someone to lease the Paul R. Brown Epic Center in the D.O. Hall Business Park on Brick Church Road south of Cambridge. Zane State President Dr. Chad Brown recently said the college is involved in discussions to lease the building, but a final decision has not been made by either party. Zane State staff has been at the property recently conducting inventory.
  • Discussed a proposed $350,000 project by the city of Cambridge to rehabilitate a downtown parking lot to include paving, striping, sidewalk repairs and installing a curb with a sidewalk along Turner Avenue. The city has applied for $77,500 in Ohio Department of Transportation funding through the county’s Transportation Improvement District.
  • Blanchard highlighted a recent visit to Bellefontaine to discuss economic development. Officials there told the group to brand their community and capitalize on its history while publicizing local opportunities.

The Guernsey County Port Authority meets the second Thursday of each month.