By Jason Keller
OSU professor Dr. Mark Partridge was wowed after looking at the data behind the economic impact of Holmes County. It is a story that includes strong employment numbers and real, measured growth, even in the recession.
“This is not the norm for a rural community,” Partridge shared of his study of Holmes County, an area that is bucking the trends of the State. “In doing this for nearly 30 years, I’ve never seen a county that is anything like Holmes County. This is phenomenal what happens here.”
He noted that unlike other places that are “booming” in terms of economics that are or are near a big city, Holmes County isn’t. “It’s remarkable what is happening here when compared to the rest of the nation,” Partridge explained. “Compared to the rest of rural America, this is an amazing success story. Rural America is doing terrible in economic expansion, but rural Ohio is doing ok. Holmes County is doing absolutely fantastic.”
The professor noted that Ohio is well-behind the National averages, but overall is doing what is considered to be “ok” in terms of economic growth and stability. He shared that the national outlook has been virtually the same for the past five years and much of the same is looking to hold true for the next five years. “The continued growth has been made possible by tax cuts,” Partridge said. “There are some risks out there. The longer we see this tax cut expansion, the more risks will arise.”
He noted that inflation has started to pick up. In addition, interest rates are starting to rise. For the first time in many years, the dollar is appreciating value in the state of Ohio right now, a marker that indicates a solid economy.
In the past eight years, Holmes County’s manufacturing numbers are up just over 26 percent. That kind of a jump in the bigger picture can normally be attributed to a new company coming in and opening a new plant like a car manufacturer such as Chevrolet.
For Partridge, the number is just short of incredible, so much so he had to check the data not once but twice. “There is no way, a rural place like Holmes County this far away from major interstates, can grow 26 percent, but indeed it has,” he said. “That’s an amazing number.”
He noted the fact that workforce availability is a large hurdle in Holmes County, yet employment opportunities have grown approximately 20 percent in the past eight years, compared to a rate of 12.5 percent in the nation as a whole. “I doubt there is another case of a rural county in the whole country similar to that,” Partridge said. “Rural America has lost employment since 2010.”
Partridge praised the work of Holmes County as a whole. “You have a really thriving small business community,” he said. “If something goes wrong with one company, it’s not the end of the world for the rest of the county. You are really diverse. You are a really remarkable story in small business here.”
For 2017, Holmes County ranked 13th in the state out of 88 counties in new business employment, as only 7 percent came from new business. In addition, self-employment is up over 50 percent.
“Every piece of data I look at shows you don’t have a lot of assets, but you make the most of what you have,” Partridge said.
He praised the work of small business owners and acknowledged the hard work and ingenuity of the Amish population add to the beauty of the economic picture of Holmes County. “You have folks who are not afraid to work hard,” Partridge said.
As Holmes County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director reminds, “Holmes County is alive and well because we have caring business leaders in our community who are eager to work together. They know the value of economic growth and understand the need to compliment each other with their offerings.”
“Holmes County is definitely on the move,” Partridge said. “There is no doubt there are lessons for others to learn from just a day in Holmes County.”
This story originally appeared in the October 31, 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.