Developments will add jobs, more housing

Developments will add jobs, more housing

Image Credit: Elizabeth Schuster

With rising inflation and labor and housing shortages, there might be concerns about the future of local economic development in Wayne County.

Significant investment is going into Wooster, the county seat, in housing, retail and industrial development. This gives confidence to investors and residents alike about local economic growth trends — and the resulting improved quality of life for the community.

Among the new construction projects are several in the Wooster Innovation Park and a new residential development that is moving forward along Oak Hill Road.

Industrial developments

“In a little over a year, there’s going to be over 1 million square feet of new industrial growth in Wooster Innovation Park. This will benefit everyone,” said Jonathan Millea, City of Wooster economic development coordinator. “It comes down to the fact that Wooster has a good quality of life. We have good logistics. We have good access to other markets.”

In the Wooster Innovation Park, the Wooster Brush facility is proceeding according to schedule, with the roofing, siding, flooring and exterior concrete and a parking lot complete. According to Tim Swift, purchasing manager at Wooster Brush, the manufacturing equipment will be installed in late winter and early spring, with the moving of existing equipment and machines to follow that. Final completion and occupancy is expected in July.

Millea said south of that property, there is a project consisting of a new package-handling facility that will be 200,000 square feet and will bring at least 200 new jobs.

Along Old Airport Road, Setzer Properties is constructing a roughly 200,000-square-foot facility with an expected 270 jobs. It appears to be in the logistics industry, but the client’s name has not been officially released yet. This project broke ground in the last few months.

Finally, the new PepsiCo-Frito Lay property was the first building finalized in the new portion of the Wooster Innovation Park, completed in 2022.

Housing updates

The housing shortage in Wayne County has been well documented, both in terms of current residents lacking housing and new employees who seek to move to the area.

In reference to new jobs being created in manufacturing and logistics, Millea said, “In the short-term it creates a bit of a workforce crunch, but in the long-term it helps businesses succeed.”

When the county’s workforce expands, this can have a ripple effect of positive benefits. “When you have new talent and new skills, that benefits everyone because we have that knowledge base in the community, which accelerates innovation to create new technology and new products, making it a better place to invest,” Millea said.

However, this also adds to the existing challenges around the lack of housing stock in Wayne County.

Developer Justin Starlin said he’s been observing the housing shortage since his past position as president of the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce. He said he was looking forward to seeing inventory in the market. “I want to see employees locally have viable options for housing, so they become part of the community,” he said.

Starlin and a business partner are leading the new residential development under construction along Oak Hill Road.

“The model homes broke ground in mid-December and will be framed out by the second week of January and finished by first of February,” he said. “It’s a 90-day build.”

Starlin was pleased to have secured a partnership with builder Ryan Homes. “Ryan Homes is busy and in a lot of markets in Ohio,” he said. “They had plans to come to Wooster in the next five to seven years. We knew housing inventory was at a low and not enough to grow from an industry perspective, (and they) said the only way they would come to town earlier than five to seven years was a good site.”

Only because of the ideal location they were able to secure on Oak Hill did the builder agree to work in Wooster earlier than anticipated.

The City of Wooster is installing more sewage lines to benefit the new residential development along Oak Hill. Millea said these sewage lines also will benefit the school and potentially other future development in the area.

Further, traffic continues to increase on Oak Hill Road. According to a mapping platform of Ohio Department of Transportation, the peak location on the road gets 12,000 vehicles per day, so a new roundabout will be installed at the intersection of Oak Hill and Oldman Road, tentatively starting construction this summer.