Champaign County business owners and community leaders gathered recently for breakfast and an update on legislation and economic development news from federal, state and local officials.
About 40 people attended the Champaign County Legislative Breakfast at the Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center. The event was co-sponsored by the Champaign Economic Partnership and the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. At the breakfast:
· U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan spoke on immigration legislation and the new tax reform law. “Taxes are down, markets are up, and ISIS is on the run,” he said. He also spoke on the need for welfare reform. “When I talk with employers they say they’re having difficulty finding workers. We need to make work more profitable than non-work,” he said. “We need to incentivize work.”
· Sandra Brasington, Gov. John Kasich’s regional liaison, addressed the governor’s initiatives to address the opioid crisis. About $1 billion has been directed to the problem, including prevention, education, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement.
· Lauren Bowen, public affairs liaison for Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, spoke about OhioCheckbook.com, a website created by the Ohio Treasurer’s office to provide taxpayers online access to state government spending data – to hold public officials accountable. Local government spending also is being added to the website. So far in Champaign County, spending records for Mad River Township, Goshen Township, St. Paris and Mechanicsburg have been published on the website. North Lewisburg, Christiansburg and Urbana City Schools will be added soon.
· Than Johnson, CEO of Champaign Residential Services, Inc., spoke on behalf of Ohio Sen. Matt Huffman. He said Huffman is working on a redistricting amendment that will be on the ballot this fall. He also is working with local school districts on legislation to improve current state regulations to assist in local school funding.
· Champaign County Commissioner Steve Hess said, “I can’t remember when there’s been so much new development in our county.” He gave as examples new Urbana school buildings, the Memorial Health medical center, the new Navistar/Damewood Enterprises warehouse, the new Crop Production Services facility and expansion of WEIDMANN Electrical Technology.
He said that the CEP’s mission is to “create the path of least resistance to help business develop in our county. If we can find a process to make development easier, that’s what we want to do.” He added that the CEP is partnering with manufacturers and educational institutions to prepare the next generation for the workforce.
To help guide economic and community development in the future, he said, Champaign County commissioners are working with the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission to create a new comprehensive plan that will cover the entire county.
· Urbana Mayor Bill Bean spoke about redevelopment of the former Q3/JMC, Inc. manufacturing site in Urbana – about 20 acres that are being prepared for new industrial development and job creation. He also mentioned a collaborative effort of the city, Urbana City Schools, the CEP and a developer that could create 50 senior citizen apartments in the Douglas Hotel in downtown Urbana and Urbana North and South elementary schools, which will close with the opening of Urbana’s new elementary and middle school. Also, he reported, the second phase of the city’s replacement of water lines will begin in the next year.
· Mechanicsburg Mayor Greg Kimball mentioned two projects that the CEP has assisted the village with – foreclosed downtown property that the village wants to return to productive commercial use and annexing the Advanced Technology Products manufacturing facility into the village.