By Jacob Mahaffey
Holmes County is growing like a well-fertilized field.
In fact, it is growing at such a rate that the time has come to really take a deeper look at the future and how to safely provide needed resources. Currently, Holmes County is looking at putting together a Comprehensive Plan for the county. A Comprehensive Plan looks at many different facets of the community that is being studied. Some of the main points include transportation, economic development, residential development, income, and population growth.
Typically, a study is done every five to ten years to gather information on the pieces and parts that make up an area. That study includes information on actual and possible trends based on historical data. In Holmes County, the last one was done 15 years ago. “It’s a good idea to do a revision,” explained Arnie Oliver, Director of the Holmes County Planning Commission. “Take a look at the existing plans and adjust them for what’s currently occurring in the county.”
Holmes County finds itself in a unique situation. “Everybody that lives here knows we are a bit different than the rest of the world,” Oliver stated. “We are a very unique county with our Amish population.”
It is well documented that the Amish population doubles every 18 – 20 years. With the world’s largest Amish population, Holmes County is poised to see a steep increase in people with that factor alone. “Holmes County is one of the fastest growing counties in Ohio,” Oliver said. “It’s easily in the top 10. We are not a typical situation.”
Oliver went on to explain that Holmes County’s population growth is natural. That means Holmes County residents are birthing Holmes County residents as opposed to population increases based on new residents moving to the area. According to the US Census Bureau, there were 42,366 people living in Holmes County in 2010.
There is also the commuting population who come to Holmes County to work. Employees are a hot commodity these days and there are more jobs than people in the area. Addressing the need for employees is an issue Holmes County Economic Development Director Mark Leininger is working on for the county. “Finding qualified employees who are able to work is a hurdle for employers in Holmes County,” he shared. “That need can stifle growth. A business can’t add on or expand its services if there aren’t able bodies to fill those spots.”
When it comes to businesses, there are many. However, most, have a common theme: manufacturing. “We have a lot of diverse types of manufacturers,” Oliver said. “Ranging from the very large like ProVia to lots of small shops scattered all over the county.” By and large, many of the large manufacturers in Holmes County started out as a small “mom ‘n’ pop” type of shop. These “homegrown” companies bode well for the economy of the county. “Our county is very entrepreneurial,” Oliver said.
With all of the manufacturing and traveling going on in Holmes County, the road system and related infrastructure are also important aspects to be examined. “Are there improvements to the system we have now,” stated Oliver.
“Can we improve this road or that road to facilitate trucks and other vehicles?” Oliver questioned. “Those are items we would want to look at.”
So just how are the roads right now? “They are improving,” stated Holmes County Engineer Chris Young. The condition is thanks to the quarter percent sales tax approved by voters in 2016. As a result of funds being collected, the county has been able to improve the road system. Some of the work done includes high-quality striping and an improved safety edge on the side of the road. They are also adding berm to the side of the road where they can. “We have done some pretty good improvements to the roads in the past few years,” Young explained.
However, there is more than just road transportation in Holmes County as the area is considered multi-modal in transportation. There is also walking, biking, buggies, and even air travel options. Holmes County also features another unique form of getting from Point A to Point B. “We have the Holmes County trail,” Oliver explained. “The trail is not only for recreational purposes but its also for transportation [for bikes and buggies].”
With all the growth in the county, there is one large drawback – land prices. Currently, land prices in Holmes County are high. Which makes it impossible for some of the population to purchase homes. “We want to look at that issue in a Comprehensive Plan,” Oliver said.
The plan itself is still in its own planning stages with no real timeline for completion. However, once it is started it won’t take long to finish. Oliver hopes to bring in an outside consultant that will allow a fresh set of eyes to take a gander at the needs of the county. “We don’t want a cookie cutter, one size fits all,” Oliver said. “Obviously, Holmes County is not a one size fits all community. Sometimes its good to have an outsider take a look at it.”
This story originally appeared in the August 22, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.